This week two interesting web2.0 projects for development were released. One is a new website from Ebay called MicroPlace, and the other is a new blog called ideas 4 development. Slowly, big players such as development organizations or companies use web2.0 technology to promote discussions around development or to bundle their capacity to leverage the power of micro-financing.
Ideas 4 development Some days ago I got an email from Quentin Lebègue telling me about a new blog:
I read your post "an overview of blogging for development". You're right, there are not a lot of blogs about development. I wanted to present you a new collective and international blog on development: Ideas for development.
At first, I was surprised about the "viral marketing" for such a "top" blog, but then I was also impressed about how people behind it take the blogosphere and its networked conversations serious. I read some of its articles and followed with interest that the posts from people such as Pascal Lamy from the WTO have triggered some first discussions. I could not find any provocative comments or expressions of doubt or frustration as Pierre Jacquet (Chief Economist - Agence Francaise de Developpement) said on the launching press conference:
"The heads of development organizations are sometimes portrayed as inaccessible bureaucrats, who decide among themselves on the faith of the world's poorest nations. Through this blog the members will openly share their ideas, their doubts and even their frustrations manifesting their interest for dialogue with other development professionals, students and the broader public. We hope that this initiative will be the provider of fresh ideas and a catalyst for improvements in the way multilateral and bilateral organizations, as well as their partners in the south, see development. This blog is in your hand let's begin the debate."
I find that the approach of the blog goes in the right direction and this blog will lead to an authentic conversation, if the above taken statement is meant serious. The need for an open dialogue is obvious or inescapable. The discussion will be held anyway and its audience is on the rise, even the old media is following it. Therefore, I wonder why is it limited to the directors of such organizations? I am curious what the outcome would be? Will it then be used as a feedback mechanism? Will the comments be back channelled to the development organizations and lead to change? For example, so far, not a single commenter seems to have an answer, and some blog posts are pretty close to a public relation message.
MicroPlace - Invest Wisely. End Poverty. The second interesting news this week was about a platform for microfinance called MicroPlace, where according to Ebay "you can make investments that reach millions of hard-working poor people worldwide." It is an interesting attempt to widen the scope of peer to peer lending, to connect lenders and grant seekers worldwide in a transparent process. NextBillion.net describes in their interesting post the difference between Microplace and Kiva.
Big players - a shift in the web2fordev field? These two examples show that slowly conventional and rather big actors are harnessing the potential of web2.0 for development. Small agile players such as Kiva.org and many fascinating blogs out there proved the innovative and network potential of web2.0 tools. I wonder whether they will be capable of a two way conversation and whether their work mode is web2.0 compatible, as there is so little about tools and much more about culture. Granting Oxfam and Care, guests commentary fields, are just the beginning. Organizations gradually will have to interact with a multitude of actors ranging from individual activists, groups, NGOs, business and so forth. So far the most innovative ideas came from individuals or teams, and the Internet helps millions of people to benefit from this ideas. However, in the case of MicroPlace, "a new peer-to-peer lending platform backed by eBay that has gone through all the necessary SEC regulatory hoops that make it possible for investors to invest in these individuals and make a return on their investment." I wonder to which extend the capacity is needed to get these platforms established. So far, to me, the strength lies in social networks through blogs and all kinds of innovative platforms driven by enthusiasts.