Worldwide Effort Puts E-Commerce to Work Against Poverty

This week, a trio of powerful Internet companies and the United Nations launched what is being billed as “The world’s most powerful site to fight extreme poverty.” The opening of NetAid by U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former South African President Nelson Mandela was both symbolic and practical, as it channeled the power of e-commerce into the arena of social responsibility.

The new site is built to enable people from all over the world to donate funds to various world relief efforts. Spearheaded by the United Nations Development Programme, the site allows Web surfers to fight hunger, assist refugees, advance human rights and help relieve the national debts of some of the world’s poorest countries.

The immediate goal is to generate one billion hits.

Web Power

The U.N. group brought together Cisco Systems, KPMG and Akamai Technologies to build the site, which has the largest capacity of any single Web site in the world. The site can handle 125,000 simultaneous streams and 1 million hits per minute, which the companies claim is 10 times the capacity of current sites. KPMG and Akamai built the site in 90 days, using 1,500 servers in more than 90 locations around the world. It can process 1,000 secure electronic transactions per second.

The NetAid site will eventually feature a list of non-government organizations that will accept contributions. Those who wish to be listed will be able to register by filling out a form.

Additionally, corporations are encouraged to participate. To kick off the effort, Cisco Systems and the Cisco Foundation have announced plans to contribute $10 million (US$) to the NetAid Foundation.

Rock and Roll Relief

The Web site will also be promoting a three-way rock and roll concert that is scheduled for October 9th. Thirty major artists will perform at venues in New York, London and Geneva. The television audience is expected to number in the hundreds of millions and drive tens of millions to the site.

Through the promotion, organizers hope to compile the most comprehensive database of poverty fighting activity in the world. Net proceeds from the concerts will be used to help specific populations in extreme poverty in Kosovo and African countries.

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