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You've heard of the Incredible Hulk and Green Lantern. But you've probably never heard of this green superhero.
Each year the International Computer Refurbisher Summit awards a lifetime achievement award in my name (it's a long story on how that came to be).
This year the award went to Sean Nicholson.
Sean works for Microsoft on its corporate OEM team, focusing on redesign, reuse, and recycling. He is Microsoft's longtime worldwide manager for Refurbisher Programs. It was an obvious choice, and a good one. Here's why.
Reel back to around the turn of the century, say 2000 or so. The PC refurbishment industry was but a small, shadowy thing.
This was mainly because refurbishers couldn't afford to put legal Windows licenses on used equipment. Refurbishers could either pay full price for licenses (and thereby price their equipment out of the market), or use pirated versions of Windows.
In 2001, Microsoft responded to requests by refurbishers for some remedy to this problem by creating the Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) Program. Microsoft piloted the program in the U.K. and then worked with TechSoup to roll it out in the United States. I actually got to work with Microsoft Citizenship to create the U.S. program.
To put it mildly, the program was a hit. Within a few years, Microsoft expanded the MAR program dramatically. What started off as a U.S. and U.K. program for noncommercial refurbishers has expanded to cover nearly all countries and to include commercial refurbishers.
Sean was the person at Microsoft who grew the refurbishment programs to their current state.
Last year, Sean's programs supplied a million low-cost licenses for Microsoft Windows, Office, and other applications to 5,000 commercial and noncommercial refurbishers.
The two big programs he manages are now called the Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) Program and the Microsoft Registered Refurbisher Program (RPP). MAR has morphed into a program to supply large commercial refurbishers; RRP is for smaller refurbishers.
These programs are one big reason why refurbishment is now a significant part of the global recycling industry.
Refurbishing can also be lucrative. In fact several large electronics recycling companies, such as Sims Recycling Solutions, are retooling to do much more refurbishment work, due in part to depressed commodity prices on the metals they can reclaim through recycling. This made the refurbishment field the belle of the ball at the latest E-Scrap Conference I attended in Orlando this fall.
One initial reason Microsoft Citizenship got interested in refurbishment was because of the digital divide, which persists today.
Access to the Internet and computers is still a serious issue for most people in the developing world and even the U.S. Nearly half of the lowest-income families in the U.S. do not own a computer yet, though most jobs are posted online, and many teachers are now assigning homework and having children do it online.
Significant numbers of schools, charities, libraries, and low-income people around the world have trouble fully participating in the Information Age because of the high cost of IT equipment. Refurbished equipment is much less expensive than new.
Sean has consistently had a special interest in education and nonprofit use of refurbished PCs to support digital inclusion. This interest may have been kindled when he was an ICT advisor to the government of Namibia before he came to Microsoft. He has created partnerships with the United Nations UNIDO and UNEP programs over the years to promote refurbishment in the developing world.
When Willie Cade of PC Rebuilders and Recyclers and I awarded Sean with the lifetime achievement award, we had a hard time keeping the list of his contributions to the field brief.
Here are a few of the things we mentioned:
We are proud to announce that Sean Nicholson is the 2014 Jim Lynch Award winner for lifetime achievement in refurbishment.
Image: Sean Nicholson
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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