$100 Laptop (OLPC) Updates- Will Be Sold By Manufacturer In Developed Countries As Well

Latest update on the $100 Laptop–

Quanta, which is the Asian manufacturer making the $100 Laptops, has announced that it will be selling commercial versions of these $100 laptops for around $200 dollars in some parts of the developed world. They are going after the underprivileged markets in the developing world but I’m not sure how viable this market is, considering that cheap desktop machines can be had for about $300 these days.

Zaadz- Social Networking for Spiritual Changemakers

Zaadz, a social network for conscious capitalists , just received funding from John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods.

I have to admit that I’ve never heard of Zaadz until now but it looks like a promising community of like minded folks wanting to “change the world”

Our Mission. We’re gonna change the world. Our math goes like this: you be the change + you follow your bliss + you give your greatest strengths to the world moment to moment to moment + we do everything in our power to help you succeed + you inspire and empower everyone you know to do the same + we team up with millions like us = we just affected billions = we (together) changed the world.

Read more about their mission here. I don’t know anything about Zaadz, so check out their entry on Wikipedia for more info. Note that there is some criticism about the social network.

Closing The Digital Divide With Portable Wifi

Here’s an innovative way that some people in India, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Paraguay are crossing the digital divide– by gaining online access through buses equipped with wifi which drive through several hard to reach villages a few times a day..

The buses and a fleet of motorcycles update their pages in cities before visiting the hard-to-reach communities. As well as offering popular pages, the United Villages project also allows users to request specific information.

So everytime the bus drives by the village, it updates the page requests for the users connecting to the wifi service.

For example, if there was no information about Britney Spears on the village computer, a fee could be paid to get hold of such information.

The bus would then go back to the city and communicate with an internet server.

EDIT: Just got word that United Villages raised a $2 million Series A round, which included Omidyar Network, Cambridge Light & Power Corp. and Gray Matters Capital Foundation

Everyclick.com – A UK-based Charity Search Engine

I’ve written extensively about charity affinity search engines. These are search engines that attract users because they give a portion of their revenues to charity. Another one just landed on my radar– Everyclick.com is a search engine that is powered by Ask.com for both their paid listings (advertisements) and normal search listings.

everyclick allocates 50% of its gross revenue to charity each month. Each active charity receives a proportion of that sum equivalent to the proportion in which its supporters use the website relative to the supporters of other active charities. The activity of everyclick website users who do not select a specific charity will benefit all active charities on a pro rata basis.

All website activity by users is measured by reference to the number of searches that website users make – so every click really does count!

So everyclick gives 50% of its gross revenues to a charity of your choice. This is important to note. Everyclick is not a non-profit— they keep 50% of the gross revenues for themselves. They recently signed a deal with SideStep.com, a travel search engine, so business must be good.

Microfinance Venture Zopa Raises Another Round of Venture Capital Financing

I’ve written about Zopa before on this blog— it’s a microfinance venture based out of London that enables person-to-person lending. Zopa just announced today that they have raised $12.9 million dollars from several VC firms, including Bessemer, Benchmark, and Wellington Management. The extra money will be used to enter the US market. Zopa isn’t focusing on the developing world (like Kiva is), but I think the US is a good market to test a proof of concept microfinance model.

Google Supplies Software To African Nations

Google made headlines today by announcing a deal to supply the Google Apps software packages for free to Rwanda and Kenya. East Africa is a region that lags behind in technology and human development so it’s a place where a little help goes a long way.

Google Inc. has signed deals to supply software to students and government workers in two East African nations, in a bid to put them on the technical footing of more developed countries.

It’s Hard To Give Away Money- Charity Advisors Multiply

I’ve been meaning to blog this for a while–

Last week, the Wall Street Journal printed an article, “Paying Money To Donate Money (sub required),” which explores the emergence of charity advisors:

Now that donors have more charities to choose from, as well as more financial instruments with which to give away their dollars, wealthy philanthropists are increasingly hiring outside advisers to help. Those advisers can identify causes, vet charities and measure donors’ bang for the buck.

Here are a list of some of the consultants mentioned in the article:

Donor consulting is a growing business. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in New York says its staff grew to 32 employees in 2006, from 15 when it was founded in 2002; it advised on $137 million in grants last year, up from $30 million in 2002. Geneva Global in Wayne, Pa., which focuses on initiatives in impoverished countries, helped clients give out $23.2 million in grants last year, up from $600,000 five years earlier. Atlanta-based Calvin Edwards & Co. has grown to 12 employees from one in 2001, while Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors, founded two years ago in Washington, D.C., is expanding to a new office in Chicago this week because of growing demand.

If you read the article, the charity advisory business begins to make a lot of sense, especially since many of the corporations and individual donors don’t have the time or the expertise to make informed decisions. I think it would also make a lot of sense to develop college or bschool extracurricular activities to provide charity advisory services. Students would gain valuable experience and donors could tap a large base of smart students interested in social enterprise.

Acumen Fund In BusinessWeek

Check out this story in the current Businessweek on the Acumen Fund–
Designing Change: How venture philanthropy fund Acumen uses design thinking to help solve real-world problems

Here’s some text from an email by founder Jacqueline Novogratz:

We wanted to share with you an article on Acumen Fund that just appeared in BusinessWeek’s “Inside Innovation” supplement (the March 12 issue, now on newsstands). The story, an extension and update of what was featured in their online magazine last fall, is also up on their website – along with a few web-only features, including slide shows on our investment in drip irrigation and about the Acumen Fund Fellows.

We’re excited, of course, to be able to share the Acumen Fund message, but more so about the growing interest there seems to be in market-based models for addressing problems of poverty.

Bank of America Launches $20 Billion Environmental Loan Program

Bank of America on Tuesday detailed a $20 billion initiative to address global climate change which entails loans, an Eco-friendly credit card, and investments in green buildings.

The bulk of the money–$18 billion–is earmarked for lending to companies participating in “environmentally-sustainable products.” Specifically, the bank said that it will invest in low-carbon and energy efficiency technologies as well as carbon emissions trading programs.

At the end of the day, the majority of the money is for loans that need to be approved and have to be paid back. I think the LEED certification and the investments in preservation and conservation projects are quite commendable but represent only 10% of the money. As you can tell, I’m a bit more skeptical about these socially responsible campaigns by corporations after the news hit about Project RED.