Empowering the poor to be breadwinners

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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.

Leila Janah on Samasource

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By Leila Janah, the founder of Samasource.

Over one billion people live in extreme poverty, subsisting on $1.25 a day or less. Among the Millennium Development Goals determined by world leaders in 2000 is a target to achieve “full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.” Despite up to 90% literacy rates and increasing levels of per capita income being spent on higher education in developing countries, employment opportunities remain scarce, even in urban areas.

Samasource connects 900 marginalized people, from Kenyan youth to women in rural Pakistan, with dignified work opportunities via the Internet. Using the business process outsourcing model, we secure contracts from global organizations to provide digital services such as data entry, book digitization, Internet-based research, business listings verification, audio transcription, and video captioning.