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.

A new technology to monitor water

A new technology is being unveiled today that monitors water quality. FLOW, as it is known, is the brainchild of Ned Breslin, the CEO of Water For People, a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of water and sanitation in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The first technology of its kind, FLOW (Field Level Operations Watch) is an Android mobile phone app that captures data on water points and sanitation projects in 11 different countries. The data is automatically uploaded to Google Earth so it is free and available for anyone to see and use.

The future of microfinance?

The way Ben Lyon sees it, the finance world is in the middle of a revolution, and the simple text message is at the heart of it.

Lyon created a system to bring formal financial services to microfinance institutions and poor entrepreneurs via a mobile phone. He believes the new software, to be launched by the organization he founded, FrontlineSMS:Credit, could change the world of microfinance by changing the way the poor interact with the institutions.