A make-it-yourself recycled computer called “Jerry”

Posted on 02 June 2016.

Three French students developed the idea of turning a jerry can into a computer. Their goal? To fight the digital divide and provide a recycling solution for developing countries.

“Jerry Clans” worldwide

Although computers are commonplace in developed countries, the same is not true of developing countries. The latest report from the World Economic Forum estimates that 60% of the world’s population still has no access to computers.

In 2011, aiming to fight the digital divide, three students from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle set up the Jerry do-it-together project. The principle behind it? To build computers entirely from recycled materials.

A technological as well as ecological feat. All the electronic components are recovered from worn out machines: motherboards, hard drives, power cables. They are then assembled and fitted inside an upcycled jerry can. Which means it loses its original function and is used to make a superior product - in this case a computer housing.

Then all that remains is to connect a keyboard, mouse and screen - often recovered from landfills or from local businesses – and you’ve got a fully functional computer!

The "Jerry" adapts to meet all needs. With free software, it can be used as an information platform, Wi-Fi network or video game program. In the Ivory Coast for example, a Jerry is used as a base for sending text messages to remind pregnant women living in rural areas about their antenatal appointments.

But the real stroke of genius of Jerry’s founders probably lies in having made it a social initiative. Computers are built during collective "do-it-together" workshops. Participants acquire the technical know-how needed to build their own machine - and then most importantly they can pass on the initiative in their turn.

In just a few short years, "Jerry Clans" have proliferated all over the world to the extent that today they represent a truly international community.