Empowering the poor to be breadwinners

Samasource, a non-profit that connects people living in poverty to work via the Internet provides a different kind of economic aid. The founder of the organization, Leila Janah, who is also 2010 PopTech social innovation fellow, says that instead of just giving money and help to the poor, Samasource empowers them to be producers so that they are not forced to simply be receivers and consumers.

“There’s a new paradigm that’s an alternative to aid,” Janah says. “Aid is not necessarily the best solution for poor people. We spend a hundred billion a year on stuff that we know very little about — there’s very little transparency in the foreign aid world — and it has a perverse effect on small economies.”

While in Kenya in 2007, Janah realized that there was a disconnect between market access in the U.S. versus in India and Africa, which is close to zero. In rural India, for example, there are 150 million people who don’t have jobs. In part, because they don’t have access to the Internet. Samasource bridges these two realities not only by securing jobs, but also by providing the untapped, underemployed human workforce with an Internet connection so that they have access to jobs.

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So far, according to Samasource, they have provided a livelihood for over 900 people in Africa, South Asia, and Haiti. In turn, they say, socially responsible companies use them to contribute to economic development and to fight poverty.

“There are more than 4 billion mobile phones in use globally. There are a billion laptops and netbooks in use and 200 million get sold every year. That means a huge new swatch of humanity can now be tapped for their brainpower, not just their manual power,” Janah says. “So instead of them always receiving information from us, we can now receive information from them.”

New York not just media, finance capital

google-nyc-office-scooter.jpgThis came as something of a surprise when we saw it.  New York City — not Silicon Valley — landed on the top of the list of the biggest U.S. technology industry workforces in 2006, according to a new study from the American Electronics Association (AeA), which bills itself as the “nation’s largest technology trade organization … dedicated solely to helping our members’ top line and bottom line.”

The media and finance capital of the world employed about 316,500 high-tech workers in 2006. The city added about 6,400 jobs from the prior year, making it the second fastest growing “cybercity” behind Seattle. The average New York City high-tech wage in 2006 was $91,500, or 46 percent higher than the average private sector job.

“The factors that have long made New York City a center of finance, culture and entertainment – a uniquely talented and diverse workforce, top academic institutions and a spirit of creativity not found anywhere else – are today making the City a center of technological innovation,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “The high-tech industry is a valuable and increasingly important part of the New York City economy, and its continued growth will foster New York’s evolution as a ‘cybercity’ and keep us ahead of the curve.”