When brainstorming about my first blog post on Business, IT and my personal interests, quite a few topics came to my mind. I noticed that the internet has come to play a major role in our everyday lives and that a daily routine without it would almost be impossible nowadays.
But what about the poor ones among us? There has been a discussion going on about the advantages of the internet contributing to enlarging the gap between rich and poor instead of being the “great leveller”.
This is partly true, if we consider that only about 25% of the world’s population is connected to the World Wide Web. There is even a specific term referring to this state called “digital divide”.
But on the other hand, I would like to introduce you to an idea that helps to alleviate poverty by using the internet. You may have heart of microfinance, right? Have you already heart of Kiva?
Kiva is a non-profit organization founded in 2005 which uses the World Wide Web as a network in order to connect people through lending. This is how it works:
You can go to the web site and have a look at different profiles of people all over the world. The profiles contain a short description of the persons’ financial needs and their plans to make use of the money. Let’s consider the example of a group of women in Paraguay who are involved in the sales of either fruit, vegetables, meat, bread, flour, eggs, sugar, clothing, etc. They seek financial support in order to improve their businesses, e.g. by buying larger quantities of meat to lower their costs and increasing earnings.
There are lots of similar profiles of people looking for support and you can choose from various categories such as agriculture, arts, clothing, construction, education, food, health, housing and many more.
Once you have selected a person you would like to support, you can make a payment to Kiva for as little as $25. Kiva cooperates with microfinance institutions, the so-called Field Partners, who administer the loans on location. Kiva does not charge any interest fees. The people gradually have to pay the loans back to the Field Partners in charge which once again return the money to Kiva and thus back to you. Then it is your choice: You may re-lend the money to another borrower, withdraw it to your PayPal account or donate the funds to help cover Kiva’s operating expenses.
Isn’t that a great idea? This system of microfinance enables low-income individuals to lift themselves out of poverty and at the same time it provides you with a possibility of retracing where and for which purposes your money is being used. On your Kiva profile, you can always have a look at the current repayment status.
You also might consider buying a Kiva gift card for your friends. I got one for Christmas myself and helped a guy in Lebanon buy some wood for his business. In the last few months, I have already been repaid 33% of the lending amount.
Just try it. Helping is not a girl’s business. It’s everyone’s business!