The modernization of emerging countries has helped to shrink global poverty. But today, more than half the world still lives in poverty, according to the Pew Research Center. The World Bank’s definition of the world’s poorest population means people who exist on less than $1.90 a day. Even in highly under-developed countries, that means living on the verge of starvation. Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit. In this region, four in 10 people live in extreme poverty. In countries like Mozambique, Ivory Coast and Tanzania, more than 90 percent of the population exists on less than $5.50 a day. Large organizations like the World Bank and UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) continue to chip away at the problem on a global scale. But solving extreme poverty has taken a much more personal and positive turn thanks to internet connectivity.
Microloans changing lives
Internet-based microloans have helped hit extreme poverty head on, providing a jumpstart for many impoverished people who want a better life. These loans are not charity. They’re small amounts of money, oftentimes less than $50, loaned over the internet to entrepreneurs in impoverished countries. Loans are used for everything from helping a business owner buy food and clothing for sale or to purchase a cart to get their goods to the local market. A microloan could be used to buy the raw materials a business owner needs to make their baskets, or clothing. All of the money is transferred over the internet through a nonprofit online service. In many cases, partner organizations in the field help with disbursement and repayments. Kiva, a nonprofit that’s been around since 2005, is one of the leading microloan services with a simple business model: Connect people who need help with the people that can help them. As of 2019, people in 82 countries, including the United States, use Kiva to lend and receive microloans to better their lives. The platform works a lot like GoFundMe, except that contributors are lenders, not donors. Lenders set up an online account and deposit an amount of money. It’s not hard to find a worthy cause. The Kiva website has pages and pages of people to loan money to. Everyone has a short story about who they are and how they want to use the loan to build their business. Lenders can either loan everything to one person, or they can divvy up smaller amounts to several different entrepreneurs. Then they can track the progress of their loan as it is repaid.
To date, more than three million people have benefitted from Kiva microloans. More than $1.2 billion dollars has changed hands around the world, loaned by almost two million lenders. And it’s almost all happened over the internet. But it doesn’t take much research to see that the countries where these kinds of loans are most needed are often those with the lowest rates of online connectivity. For many of these areas, satellite can be the best chance to get the connection needed to participate in a microloan program. In the past year, Viasat has been rolling out our Community Wi-Fi service all around Mexico, allowing people with limited resources to get online even in very remote areas. Soon, we’ll reach other countries in Latin America. In 2020, we’ll launch the first satellite of our ViaSat-3 constellation, with the ultimate goal of soon being the world’s first global internet service provider. Connecting the unconnected has all kinds of benefits, including reduction in poverty, boosting educational opportunities, and bettering lives and communities. We look forward to providing internet service in all those unconnected places, enabling access to things like microloans that can make a huge difference.