Microfinance Meets P2P Technology
One powerful example of microfinance entering the mainstream is Kiva.org. Since being founded in 2005, Kiva has taken Yunus’ concept of microfinance, stirred in a healthy dose of San Francisco Web 2.0 and created immediate access for the average person to help reduce poverty in the developing world.
The surprising part of this equation is that the lenders are not large banks, or even investors with substantial amounts to contribute, but thousands of regular Internet surfers who were inspired by the photos and stories of entrepreneurs and decided to make loans of as little as $25.
With more than 125,000 lenders participating in the website, over $12 million in microloans funded to date, and media attention ranging from The Oprah Winfrey Show, to BBC World, to NHK Japan, Kiva.org has surprised many with how easy and engaging it is to support a microbusiness halfway across the world to buy a fishing boat, stock a neighborhood store for the holiday season, or purchase a dairy cow for the family farm.
By partnering with established microfinance institutions throughout the developing world, beginning in East Africa and quickly expanding to 40 countries, Kiva.org has been able to reach many populations in a variety of economic and cultural contexts to connect them with lenders willing to provide support.
Kiva Entrepreneurs are located in countries as diverse as Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Mozambique, and Iraq, and often a loan of a few hundred dollars is made from a pool of Kiva Lenders in many countries, contributing $25 or $50 each.
Through Kiva.org's website, you can see not only the business that these ad hoc groups of lenders have chosen to support, but also their lender profile, revealing why they might feel a connection to this particular business or country, and which other businesses they are lending to on the site.
As Kiva.org grew, several field partners found that a shortage of English-speaking staff became a limitation to posting enough businesses to the website to meet demand. Kiva.org decided to provide some extra support and launched its unusual translation program, with close to 200 volunteers logging on every month to translate a steady stream of businesses posted in Bahasa Indonesia, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
These translations provide yet one more point of access for these businesses in the developing world to reach those who are interested on the other side of the Internet, and ensure that the language gap does not create a barrier to this innovative approach to microfinance.
About the Author
Naomi Baer (firstname.lastname@example.org) leads Kiva.org’s fast-growing team of volunteer translators, reaching from Phnom Penh to Madrid. With 14 years of experience as a professional translator, she has extensive experience managing language projects, serves on the board of the Northern California Translators Association, and is certified by the American Translators Association in Portuguese to English translation. Kiva's Translation Program welcomes new volunteers, and is currently recruiting for Khmer and Nepali teams, in addition to the current working languages. See Kiva’s Get Involved page for more details.