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INTERNATIONAL: Google Gives $2.5 Million to a Direct Cash Transfer Charity

Business Press has been praising GiveDirectly, a direct cash transfer charity. The business press has been reporting very positively on a charity that transfers cash directly to Kenya’s poorest residents. In Kenya, cellphones work like debit cards and it is easy to infer who is poor and who is not by their address or other data. GiveDirectly uses that data and simply sends money to poor people in two low-income districts. Those without a phone can pick up cards and use them in other ways.

Google Giving has donated two and a half million dollars to this charity. They cite the efficiency of it. There may be a few people who aren’t as needy as one would prefer and the phone companies do take some of the transfer but even then, it is more efficient than paying someone to assess every recipient. Also, cash aid creates market demand for food and other needs that could be met by entrepreneurs. Some recipients will use the money to start small businesses or pay school fees.

Intriguingly, the rationale for GiveDirectly that Facebook and Google figures have adopted, mirrors the rationale for a basic income and for projects like ReCivitas’ BIG QUATINGA VELHO and BIG Otjivero. ReCivitas has even less administrative costs than those faced by GiveDirectly. We have also discussed on this page BIG experiments in India. This could beat back the weird perception that a BIG is “impossible”.

For More info see:

Kerry Dolan, “Why Facebook Cofounder Chris Hughes And Google Are Giving Cash Directly To The Poorest,” Forbes, 5/28/2013

Jacqueline Fuller, “Want to Help People? Just Give Them Money,” Harvard Business Review, March 28, 2013

Matthew Yglesias’ article in Slate (see separate BI News report) gives a detailed account of GiveDirectly and its reception.

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 949 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. Much of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI). He is a co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and now serves as vice-chair. He was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 years. He is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwide. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI. Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular media. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website ( More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on Wikipedia. He writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for Basic Income News.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

One comment

  • Murf Mensch

    The headline should read “Google Gives…”

    It is interesting to see business press praise this charitable approach. If the argument for this approach works for charity, it would also work for public policy.

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