Bridging the Digital Divide Through Computer Donations

Advisor: Professor Steven Goldman

"To the economists. They are the guardians, not of civilization, but of the possibility of civilization." -- John Maynard Keynes

Matthew Kam > B.A. Honors Thesis


My B.A. in Economics senior honors thesis proposes computer donations as a means of bridging the digital divide, and presents the initial findings of a few such attempts.  Computer donations typically involve channeling (usually used and hence, recycled) computers from companies and other donors to low-income households through non-profit and voluntary welfare organizations.  

The fundamental issue is not about increasing the number of computers in low-income households, because computers are only a means to an end.  Besides, skeptics have also leveled criticisms, such as: "Are you sure needy families really need computers?"  The acid test for computer donations is therefore: "Did the recipients of the donated computers actually benefited in socioeconomic and educational terms from such computer donation programs?" which I addressed in my thesis.  

In general, computer donations appear to be associated with promising results, in terms of the socioeconomic and educational returns that both students and adults gain from this form of human capital investment.

My thesis draws upon the economics literature from development microeconomics, labor economics and the economics of education.



Home computer ownership is an issue that is extremely close to my heart. After all, despite my childhood interest to learn how these fascinating machines work, my family was unable to afford one then. It was only after several years that we managed to rent an inexpensive IBM PC/XT, and many more years later before we saved enough to buy an Intel 80486. 

Hence my personal interest in this topic.


"The study of the causes of poverty is the study of the causes of the degradation of a large part of mankind." -- Alfred Marshall


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