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Clicking for rice - can we feed the world with a mouse?

David Storey
24 Jun 2019 · 2 min read

David Storey, inspired by the use of technology to create human advantage, has been looking at how the internet can be used as a force for good. You can read the main article here.

I wanted to explore whether we can fight hunger by simply using one mouse and one finger. It might sound too good to be true but what is the reality?

Click for food?

My journey began with what appears to be the easiest of actions – clicking a button. The Hunger Site which has been running since 1999, claims to donate roughly “one cup of food” to the needy whenever a user clicks a large, yellow button on their site.

The action of clicking is of course not enough to produce free food, but rather the resulting ad revenue can be used for that purpose.

When I clicked the ‘Click to give - it’s free!’ button I was taken to a page choc-full of banner ads – seven of which are for external partners. The remaining twenty (plus one popup overlay) are all promoting items in The Hunger Site’s store.

Whilst CharityUSA who run the site claim that 100% of its advertising revenue is donated to organisations such as Mercy Corps and Food Recovery Network, it’s unclear how effective single clicks are. Some sources state only one of visitor’s click per day is actually counted, whilst others are pointing out users would surely need to interact with the ads to generate revenue.

Questions for rice

John Breen who originally founded The Hunger Site went on to create the similarly propositioned Free Rice which invites users to take part in simple, multi-choice quizzes and will donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme (a branch of the United Nations) for every correct answer. The quiz element offers more engagement than a lone button clicking and a visualisation of a bowl of rice slowly filling up helped give a sense of progress.

Not even clicking

However, if you want a way of donating free food without having to repeatedly click a button, then Gladly might be of interest to you. It offers a Chrome extension that replaces your homepage with two banner ads – generating revenue every time you open your browser. The company claim that they will always donate at least 30% of their revenue to organisations voted for by their users.

Lack of achievement?

The biggest problem with these three sites is that they’re so simple, it almost feels inconsequential. With reliance on just the simple message that you’ve done something good, you don’t actually feel like you have done anything so there’s little motivation to come back and click again (perhaps this is why Free Rice introduced the game element).

Overall though, these are great examples of the internet trying to do good. Maybe with a few tweaks or some sideways thinking they can be even more effective in the future?

One of the lessons I’ve learned from Clicking for Rice, and will bring to my work with AmazeRealise, is the need to have a sense of consequence to any online action that’s meant to have a powerful outcome.

Find out what David thinks about the Missing Maps here or discuss how you can create your own human advantage through technology by getting in touch with us using the form below.

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