Video of a talk I gave at MIT, along with Beth Noveck, Henry Jenkins and Chris Csikszentmihayli, on “civic media”, a category a bit broader than citizen media
Aaron Swartz gives a good overview of the Open Library project, designed to create terrific metadata for every book ever printed
Rob Katz compares the models of MicroPlace and Kiva
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I am quite a big fan of Aaron Swartz he has done some impressive stuff. Now he is working on the Open Library project lets see how it takes off. I have high hopes. The demo looks brilliant so far.
Kiva seems much more transparent about how they choose local partners than MicroPlace is.
From speaking to people who do microfinance in India, my belief is that the most important contribution of microfinance is to reduce the grip of local moneylenders who charge exorbitant interest rates. That can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Many farmer suicides are the result of such interest payments. However, beyond that microfinance seems to only have a limited effect on lifting people out of poverty.
It is often those who are already somewhat better off who are able to successfully complete the application process and apply for the loans. The main problem is that few of these programs track how they do in such terms. They mostly track how good they are at getting the money back which they lend out, not how those loans impact the community.
So while I think these programs are great, I worry that they are oversold as a free-market solution to problems which require far more than just low-interest loans.