Thursday, September 11, 2008

Technology Leveling the Playing Field

In America we talk of a society of unlimited opportunity. Communism aspired to a “classless society”, but never quite achieved it. Countries and social experimentors have long tried to make a utopia of total equality.

But we’ve still got the poor.

I first discovered this for myself as I walked the streets of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, working for my church in the early ‘80’s. I grew up in a small town in Indiana. I’d seen people who were of a “lower socio-economic status” before. But I wasn’t prepared for what I encountered in that impoverished nation. I worked with and interacted with people who lived, with their entire families, often extended families, in small 10x10 huts. In at least on instance, I worked with a family that literally lived in a cardboard and wood frame house.

As I’ve lived here in America again since then, I’ve seen that even though we have a higher standard of living on average, we have people that are in that same condition living here.

Lots of solutions are constantly proposed and implemented. Most of them involve giving away money and food. Others travel and provide much-needed medical care, or help to build homes, schools, community centers, and churches. All of these are valuable and wonderful. Sometimes I wonder just how much impact they have.

Still, we keep doing them. We all help as we can, one bit at a time.

What I’d like to share now is about a few efforts that people have been putting forward using technology that have both had an impact, and promise to have a big impact on the future.

Micro Loans

One thing that has always frustrated may who are in more wealthy countries is that we are constantly barraged by pleas for help. Give, give, give, and there always seems to be more need. Because once the money you’ve given is used up, the recipient still needs more. It’s true that we need to share, but at some point the recipient needs to improve their situation in order to really fix the problem.

Micro Loans are one approach to this problem. Here in America, it can take a lot of money to start a business. Overseas, in an impoverished, developing nation, a craftsman can begin to earn his or her own living as a business startup with very little startup capital. With as little as $200, in some cases, a person in a distant land can begin to be self-sufficient., one of the primary sites for setting up microloans, reports that few loans default.

Once the loan is repaid, the investor can reinvest in another entrepreneur, donate the money to Kiva for operational expenses, or even withdraw their money.

Through the technology of the Internet, people are connected and able to help each other and themselves around the world.

One Laptop per Child

In the technological world, there are two big divisions: Those that have access to technology, and those that don’t. Technology and information can’t help those that can’t plug into it. The “One Laptop Per Child” program has been working for a long time on a design for a rugged, easy-to-use, and inexpensive design for a laptop. Their goal was to get the cost down to around $100 each, so that by donations and purchase by governments, schoolchildren in developing and impoverished nations around the world could have access to the information and learning associated with the Internet.

They succeeded in getting the laptops made and released, and have already distributed over 400,000 units. They’ve also been developing an eBook reader that can be bought for only $85.

Still, there are many more than 400,000 poor children in the world. Go to and learn more about the program and how you might be able to participate.

There are lots of opportunities to use technology to serve those around you. These are only two. Join in and see if you can help!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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