Surplus Federal Computers for Schools: An Assessment of the Early Implementation of E.O. 12999

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Signed in April 1996, Executive Order (E.O.) 12999, "Educational Technology: Ensuring Opportunity for All Children in the Next Century," was intended to promote the transfer of unneeded federal government computer equipment to schools and educational nonprofit organizations. This report examines the supply and distribution of surplus government computers and the implications for schools. The report also looks at government agencies' early experiences with E.O. 12999 and identifies lessons from past government donation programs and private-sector efforts. The Critical Technologies Institute (CTI) of the RAND Corporation gathered information on the number of computers that might be distributed from the 13 largest federal agencies, examined their implementation plans, and conducted over 80 interviews with key agency personnel, private and nonprofit organizations, and schools. An estimated 30,000-50,000 computers were donated in one year, either directly or through the Federal Surplus Property Donation program. Lessons from private and public-sector computer donation programs include: transferring equipment in good working order is essential; donation programs must be managed; refurbishing and upgrading provide more and better equipment for schools; and recycling organizations offer advantages, but other approaches to refurbishing also seem feasible. Agency concerns with the intent and language of the Executive Order itself are discussed, and findings and recommendations are provided. Appendices include the text of E.O. 12999 and brief descriptions of selected recycling and intermediary organizations. (SWC)

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