Tag Archives: Kiva

Getting Connected to Everyone Everywhere in the World

How connected are you? If you’re like me, you might often feel you’re too connected and should probably just step away from the phone, smart phone, computer, tablet device, etc., etc… and take a nice long technology-free walk.

But I also have no desire to give up these ever-increasing connections. I get to chat with people all over the planet instantly. I can browse news from journalists far and wide, and sometimes find out things even before the networks in the U.S. catch on. And I can watch videos, read stories, hear music and learn new things from friends, and sometimes people I’ve never even met from places near, far and in-between.

I’m also pretty sure that the faster we all get connected, the faster we can solve the world’s problems because two heads are always better than one, and well, if seven billion of us can really collaborate and put our brains together, we might actually figure out some stuff. (Okay, it’s probably going to be the kids because they are already showing up the adults in way too many ways but at least we adults could help them out a little!)

However, although we are seemingly bolting as fast as we can towards that goal of 100% internet connection throughout the planet, there are still many places where people don’t have access.

One country that is making great progress but still has a good distance to go is the Philippines. Just a few years ago in 2007, according to the World Bank, only 6% of the population had access to the web. The latest figure is close to 33% (with 27% also being connected to Facebook!) but, especially in rural areas, there’s still a lot to be done.

Because internet connection is seen as a need but not a basic one (and also because telecommunication companies are already doing their darndest to get into these new markets) there aren’t a lot of obvious ways to “give” the internet though doing so can have a huge and positive impact on people’s lives.

So I checked instead with Kiva and found a businesswoman in the Philippines who wants to expand her internet cafe helping people in her rural community. I’ve added my little bit now and, fingers crossed, if she gets the loan, maybe we’ll have a few more people on board to help out on solving some of the big issues we’re all facing!

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

PS. Great recent piece here on exactly how telecoms infrastructure is driving new growth in Africa.

The Third Billion

One of the best ways to improve the lives of people in poverty is to channel development money to them. It’s the old, “Teach a man to fish” theory. Only what has become increasingly apparent over the last few decades is that it’s actually more effective to channel small amounts of finance, usually via micro-finance programs, to women. Women, for whatever reason, tend to use the money to pay for their children’s education, cover healthcare costs, and use the money for improvements to their community, raising standards of living for everyone. (Recently, one woman in India, in rebellion against the low standards of sanitation in India and specifically her new home, took a stand for a modern toilet, and was even rewarded by an international aid agency!)

But finally, the idea that empowering women and providing them with access to finance works, is becoming mainstream, to the point where even the U.N. is recognizing this fact. There was an interesting article about this process recently, but going even further, and speculating on the enormous and untapped economic power of the women in developing countries, referred to as the “Third Billion.”

And it’s pretty easy if you want to help support women in developing countries these days thanks to traditional organizations’ increasing adoption of micro-finance as a development tool, “social businesses”  like Kiva.com, and even organizations like  Microplace.com which provide investment opportunities for people in the developed world benefiting those in the not-so-developed world.

But this is more than just a huge increase in both entrepreneurs and consumers into the global marketplace. Women have different styles of working which are often less competitive and more collaborative. In the future, we may have a very different kind of economy if current trends continue.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

Unemployment and Entrepreneurs

Sometimes I just don’t know what to make of the numbers or, really, the lack of them. I’ve been using the World Bank’s figures for a while now for several of my indicators but was very disappointed when I checked yesterday and found that the unemployment figures have yet to be updated from 2009. So, off to Wikipedia, and their page on global unemployment, which largely seem to come from the CIA (perhaps unsurprisingly a rather good source of data). One good thing about these numbers is that there are more of them for more countries. One bad thing is that they aren’t always reliable. Also, data on unemployment for most of the countries on the African continent seems to be almost non-existent and I’m pretty sure there are people working there. (C’mon, World Bank, get your act together! Why can’t you or anyone else provide this data?!)

Anyway, putting aside my on-going (and sorry, probably boring) frustration with available, accurate data, I was surprised to see how slightly the numbers actually moved. Despite the media’s consistent declaration of an impending economic apocalypse, this doesn’t seem to be happening. Yes, many countries are down, and many people are out of work, but there are lots of people still working and increasingly, at least in the U.S., if you can’t find a job working for someone else, you can always create your own. (I am noticing this not just in the broader economy but also with my friends, who are starting up micro-crafts businesses on Etsy, delving into network marketing, and just generally hustling and bustling!)

One of the least appreciated (as well as most difficult) ways to really make a difference in the world is to help create jobs and foster the entrepreneurial spirit, not just in the U.S. but all across the world. One of my favorite “charity” websites is Kiva which is firmly rooted in this philosophy of helping people help themselves.  (There are more and more of these kinds of organizations, termed “social businesses” by the founder of micro-finance, Muhammad Yunus.)  Kiva allows people all over the world to lend very small amounts of money to entrepreneurs all over the world, helping get small businesses started. The money is then paid back and can be re-circulated to the next entrepreneur.

With the media’s usual focus on huge corporations, I am increasingly impressed by the numbers of smaller businesses that manage to not only spring up, but keep going, and even thrive. Maybe the lack of unemployment data just shows that the powers that be haven’t figured out how to show that lots of people are working, but in new and unconventional ways.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC