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November 14, 2008

Making the world a better place: number 1

GLOBAL – Over the next week or so, we’re going to profile a number of organisations and businesses who have a focus on helping the developing world. We’ve picked them simply because we think what they’re doing is interesting and their employment of the right technology to enable them to do what they do. So right now we’re kicking off with our first pick, It’s stated mission – “to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty”.

Central to delivering on its promise is its website. There
users can set up an account and become a lender (or a borrower). Those
requiring funding are entrepreneurs simply trying to better their lot.
The money they borrow genuinely helps them move towards economic
independence and improve their lives, the lives of their family and
those in the community.


Take Zabit Safaraliyev from Azerbaijan. He transports food to villages
to sell, using his car to get him and the foodstuffs from A to B. He
needs $1200 to buy spare parts for his car so he can continue his two
year old business. We’re dealing with real lives here and budding
entrepreneurs. $1200 isn’t much money, in the grand scheme of things.
When we see the amount of money governments are poring into some banks
to bail them out, a certain perspective lands when you see a situation
such as this. Zabit has already raised $225 of his required $1200. His request
was posted yesterday.


There’s Pov Choek, a 29-year-old widowed mother of two from Cambodia.
As a member of the eight-strong village bank loan group in the Andoung
Russey Village in Kampong Chhnang provence in Cambodia, she’s hoping to
expand her pig-breeding business. The business is already going well,
but she wants to expand by buying more piglets, and thus increasing her
income. Pov is part of a loan group, which is designed so that
individuals don’t have to take the risk themselves, they can rely on
the support of other group members, as the group, not the individual,
offers the guarantee.

Kiva itself doesn’t manage all the loans directly with the individuals.
In many cases it works with local field partners (in Pov’s case it’s
AMK, a leading micro finance institution in Cambodia). This enables the
process to work much smoothly, and local expertise on the ground helps
keep everything above board. It also enables entrepreneurs to get their
hands on funds more quickly as many local partners will already have
funds available, which they can then top up through Kiva, ensuring
there is always a steady stream of funds for new entrepreneurs.

Reporting back from the ground happens through Kiva’s journal on One of the latest entries includes a video from Kiva
volunteer (and ex Wall Street banker) Milena Arciszewski, who was
reporting back from her time in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Well
worth a watch so I’ve included it below. Entrepreneurs can gain access to journal reports on their phones via MMS, thanks to some software written by Kiva engineer Jeremy Frazao. This enables Kiva business to stay in touch with what’s going on.

Writing about Kiva has opened my eyes. I knew stuff like this was going
on, but I’d never really seen it up close (and sitting in my reasonably
comfy office, I use the term “up close” very loosely). I have a lot of
admiration for the people involved in Kiva, in every respect and can
see myself getting involved over time. Its use of mobile tech is limited,
but its use of web technology genuinely changes people’s lives. Please,
take a few minutes to have a look around and if it’s appealing, get
involved. What’s even better, tell people about it. The more the
merrier. Don’t forget to let us know what you think either.