I had a great meeting with Timothy Anderson, the head of the World Computer Exchange, on a recent visit to Boston. I have watched his project as it's grown over the past few years. They take thousands of used PCs (but still decent ones, they are starting to focus on Pentium IIIs) and ship them by the containerload to schools in the developing world. The way they drive the cost down is doing it by the containerload: they ship 400 PCs at a whack in a container. This pushes the cost per PC well under $100. They operate on a partial subsidy basis: the local schools have to find some of the money, WCE funds some of the cost, and then a sponsor needs to be found to supply the last $25 or $40 of the cost per PC. Timothy says they could be five times bigger if they had more sponsorships.
This is one of those ventures that takes the burden of used PCs and turns it into an asset.