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Click and change the world: Microfinance for the masses

By Mary K. Pratt
January 29, 2007 12:00 PM ET
Kiva staffers and volunteers are undeterred. They use open-source software whenever they can, Flannery says, a move that has kept costs down as they have continued to scale operations. And they recently outsourced their Web hosting to Media Temple Inc. in Culver City, Calif., because the service enables Kiva to handle dramatic spikes in Web traffic without incurring consistently high costs in doing so.

Media Temple, which has offered Web hosting services for the past eight years, launched a grid-based system in October that can scale “infinitely,” says CEO Demian Sellfors. So instead of offering each client a site on a single shared server, the service is spread across hundreds of servers. Organizations pay a set cost for 1,000 grid performance units, with additional fees if they exceed that amount.


Kiva, which started with a printer and six personal laptops brought in by its workers, is expanding its operations. Last July, it finally acquired office space, two doors down from a laundromat in San Francisco’s Mission District. Its budget is increasing from just over $125,000 in 2006 to $500,000 for 2007, says Chief Operating Officer Olana Khan. Frazao says Kiva might even buy him a new laptop.

Loftier goals include expanding the marketplace and bringing more lenders and borrowers together, says Matt Flannery. There’s also a plan to pay investors back with interest.

“There is a huge potential to access capital from people like you and me,” says Bladin. “Kiva is tapping into that. How big that is or how far you can go with that, I don’t know.”

Kiva staffers don’t know either, but they’re sure that the organization’s impact will be significant. “We’re just seeing the beginning,” Frazao says. “Kiva is about to get really big.”

Kiva is at

For more about using technology to match resources with those who need them, see:

  • Kindred Spirits: A list of other Web sites focusing on schools, grass-roots projects and more.
  • Giving a Chance: Editor in chief Don Tennant writes about Kiva's success.

    Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at

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