Dear Al,

On one side you are perfectly right: large corporations do have
resources like technical expertise, logistics and capital, that could
and should be leveraged to fight poverty (yet be aware of Halliburton's
performance in Iraq or the Water-companies in Bolivia).

Yet I'm afraid that your definition of NGOs only comprises that type of
organization you yourself are involved with: Northern, mostly
philanthropic associations, that make their living from donor money and
sponsoring/executing smaller or larger, but never large-scale-projects.
The term NGO within developing countries extends far beyond this limited
vision, as here NGOs are all types of social organizations of the
"beneficiaries" themselves, when they are not established as commercial
or public entities. This means a teachers-organization is an NGO -and
most of their programs go way beyond classical trade-unions- as they are
student-associations, small farmers associations, women's-associations,
health-associations and so on.

Many of them are confined to a single location, others have found ways
of coordination and collaboration on a larger scale, up to whole
countries or even beyond.

This framework -almost a natural one and not something crafted- joins
more expertise on Development-issues, success and failures and the
reasons why, then the whole bunch of experts of large multilateral
organizations like Worldbank, UNESCO, UNDP, FAO and (!) the big
corporations jointly. For a strikingly simple reason: it's their life
that's at stake not only success-reports or quarterly earnings.

To get again into numbers: let's assume that you need one person-day to
train 25 persons in how to use the Internet (or more generally, some
ICT-application) for their benefit. This converts into 160,000
person-days to train 4 million farmers or the equivalent of 667
man-years. (Already almost out of scope to be done by highly-skilled and
highly-paid professionals of the corporate world: it wouldn't make sense
economically with respect to ROI). If we scale it up to let's say 200
Million farmer-families, we would need about 34 thousand person-years to
do the job - completely beyond capacity of even the largest corporate
entity. And we didn't even take into account that there at least about
50 or 60 local idioms to be considered, hundreds of different cultural
traditions and thousands and thousands of different local social
settings, in which each needs a sometimes larger sometimes smaller
adjustment of training-materials, strategies and settings. So without
close-support of local NGOs the task cannot and hence will not be done.

Corollary: the true challenge is not getting the corporate-world
involved but to get thousands of local NGOs involved as counterparts.
The former is almost simple -convince the CEO and the Board of
Directors, maybe some important shareholders. The second is the truly
hard task, but unavoidable if you would like to succeed "on scale".


P.S. For some reason MIT-media-lab "left" India, AT&T & Bellsouth sold
out completely their ICT-business in Latin-American (i.e., even the best
of the corporate-world sometimes doesn't match with local conditions and

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