Free netbooks for needy students

A sense of personal connection often plays a key role in motivating charitable donations, as nonprofits are increasingly recognizing. Much the way DonorsChoose lets philanthropists choose a particular school classroom to help with a donation of specific learning supplies, so Belgian YouBridge aims to create a more personally connected version of One Laptop Per Child.

YouBridge seeks to help close the digital divide by offering a transparent online platform whereby donors are connected and involved with the specifics of their computer donation. Potential donors begin by choosing from among more than 100 financially disadvantaged students currently profiled on the site; student locations include Bangladesh, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Once donors select one to help, they use YouBridge to pay EUR 190 to donate a netbook, which normally would have a selling price of EUR 350, the organization says. YouBridge has partnered with Close the Gap for distribution to universities overseas; universities pay EUR 25 per netbook and then distribute the computers to students, who may use them until they graduate. Meanwhile, recipient students and donors immediately connect online to “share information, ideas and dreams,” in the site’s own words — participating university partners even offer a typing course for help with that, where necessary.

Charitable organizations have long employed letter-writing as a way to connect donors and recipients, but the immediacy and ongoing nature of a direct online link is bound to increase that sense of connection to new heights. How long before this becomes a standard part of the world of giving…? (Related: P2P student loans for the developing worldFighting poverty through microloan guaranteesMicrocharity uses tangibility to target young donors.)

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