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Friday, 4 October, 2002, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Software sales help gorillas
Gorilla close-up, AP
Great apes are getting help from programmers
Your handheld computer can now help gorillas.

The creator of a clever appointment tracking program called DateBk for the Palm computer is using the money generated by the software to fund a sanctuary for the great apes.

DateBk is one of a growing number of programs known as careware that help charities by either using the cash they generate to do good works or by asking anyone buying the program to give money to a good cause.

Just like selling software for profit, writing careware is proving to be a highly effective way of raising funds for charity, not to mention far less strenuous than a sponsored marathon run.

Pocket money

C E Steuart Dewar started writing DateBk in 1997. All profits from its sale now go to a charity called the Dewar Wildlife Trust, which distributes the money.

With hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of copies of the software now paid for - at up to $24.95 a time - the charity is building Gorilla Haven, a sanctuary for zoo gorillas set in 131 hectares of land in Georgia, USA.

Money raised from the software also goes to the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon and the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Sierra Leone.

Boredom, rather than altruism, was the main reason for writing the software, said Mr Dewar.

"I was travelling a lot by plane and found writing it a fun way to pass the time on airplanes and earn some extra pocket money," he says.

Plane landing, City Airport
Software that finds low fares is helping fund charities
Following retirement, and the sale of his business, he decided to give away the money generated by his pastime. The sheer amount of money that his program was able to raise came as a big surprise.

"I never had any idea that it would become the major source of funding for Gorilla Haven," he said.

Like shareware, which is often sold for profit, careware is benefiting from the net's popularity which lets software be distributed globally at negligible cost.

Software is the prefect product to sell to raise money for charity because once the program has been written, creating extra copies costs nothing.

But it does not mean the end of work for Mr Dewar. Now he spends his time helping people use his software.

"I spend about 70 hours a week on DateBk, of which 90 per cent is just answering e-mails," he says.

Big money

Not all careware programs are successful enough to fund entire wildlife reserves. Many careware authors simply ask that a donation to charity be made.

The range of careware available is staggering. They include scripts for people running web servers, software that looks for low airfares, and tank battle games for handheld computers.

The range of good causes which benefit from funds raised by careware is equally eclectic: a Catholic Mission in Kenya, a centre for the blind in Queensland, Australia, and a rural primary school in Buckinghamshire, to name but a few.

Bill Gates, AP
Gates: Charitable foundation has $24billion
Some authors do not even ask for donations of money, but hope to improve the world by asking people to take direct action.

Paul Lutus, a careware author from Washington, USA, has developed a well-regarded website creation program called Arachnophilia, which can be downloaded from the internet.

His payment terms are these: "To own Arachnophilia, I ask that you stop whining about how hard your life is, at least for a while. Stop whining for an hour, a day, your choice. Say encouraging words to young people, make them feel welcome on planet Earth."

Ironically, one could argue that Microsoft is the most successful careware creator.

The vast amounts of money the company has made have enabled Bill Gates, the company's founder, to set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This charity funds health and education projects around the world, and thanks to extraordinary ability of software to generate cash, Mr Gates has been able to endow the foundation with a staggering $24 billion.

See also:

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