Microfinance Interface

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Program giving parents the ability to apply for micro-loans.

Microfinance involves small (roughly US$20-$500) loans given so people can get the first leg-up out of a poverty cycle. They charge almost no interest and have somewhat flexible terms (for example people aren't punished with late fees if they could only pay partially one month; they could make it up the next month).

Kiva.org is an interesting take on this because it lets anyone in the world loan amounts as small as $25 from paypal to individual people. These people have been met with and researched in person by the microfinance organization. Every month you see journal entries about their progress and see what they were able to pay back that month. The loans do not charge interest. It is set up so the money comes back to you in a year; you can loan it out again once you have it back. Kiva.org uses microfinance organizations in each country who meet regularly with the people who are borrowing to coach them in how to use it properly.

The OLPC will be a miracle for people who could use this kind of loan. Microfinance is so important that I think there should be an interface where the children's parents can apply and get in touch with the lending organizations. It could be a simple program that takes the kids and their parents through putting all the info together and submitting it to be screened. Credible ones would be contacted to meet with the organization's field people to look into getting a loan. Finally these profiles would be posted on Kiva or a similar site, where normal people can fill bits of the loan until the amount is reached.

Putting this seed into rural villages would help a huge number of people; right now the barrier to entry in applying for micro-loans is knowing who to contact and having some access to the Internet.

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