While the buzzword “digital divide” seems to have faded from many American’s lips as a greater focus once again has fallen on reconstructing the U.S. economy, the core issue still remains a major problem throughout the world.
The Craig and Susan McCaw Foundation, created by Seattle wireless mogul Craig McCaw, took steps to go beyond simple dialogue about the digital divide, today announcing a $2 million contribution to a program aimed at using IT to address poverty.
The donation will be used to establish the Grameen Technology Center, which will likely be located in either Seattle, San Francisco or Washington D.C.
The project is the brainchild of the Grameen Foundation USA, an offspring of Bangladesh-based Grameen Bank. The bank is most well known for the creation of micro-lending programs, whereby the obstacle of collateral is eliminated allowing for the necessary capital for impoverished women to start their own businesses.
“The Grameen Technology Center’s goal is to mobilize the people, institutions and resources necessary to help Grameen companies reduce poverty by combining the power of the information technology with the unmatched ability of micro-loan programs to provide small amounts of finance to the poor,” says Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the internationally recognized founder of Grameen Bank.
The Technology Center plans to develop programs and form partnerships with tech companies, foundations and other organizations to provide technologies that make micro-credit lending more effective, as well as providing additional services to the poor.
“The premises of the center are twofold: Micro-credit is the secret weapon for bridging the digital divide, and secondly that information technology is the secret weapon for ensuring micro-credit goes to 100 million of the world’s poorest families by 2005,” says Alex Counts, President of Grameen Foundation USA.
Counts notes that the Technology center will serve three basic purposes: Finding technology applications that will create new income generating opportunities for the poor, finding technology applications that can make the micro-credit delivery process more streamlined and using the Internet to tell the micro-credit story.
According to Counts, telling the micro-credit story to many more people around the world is essential, stating: “We can see about the possibility that is really now before us, which is to eliminate poverty on a global scale.”
Yunus was quick to affirm the immense potential information technology holds in regards to micro-lending, as well as micro-lending’s role in bringing IT to the people of the world.
“The technology center will bring the technology ideas to the poor people and will bring the needs of the poor people to the technology,” says Yunus.