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Ebay Founder Invests In Project That Gives Free Money

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The philanthropic firm of Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar has invested in a Kenya-based project that is testing the idea of universal basic income.

The Omidyar Network announced on its website on Feb. 7 that it has invested in GiveDirectly, an organization that provides unconditional cash transfers to help produce statistics and data on universal basic income, wherein a government guarantees every citizen a yearly amount of money without conditions.

The investment will be used in GiveDirectly's 12-year UBI pilot in Kenya, where more than 26,000 people in 200 villages will receive cash transfers. And about 6,000 of those people will receive a long-term basic income for 12 years. The amount per person will equal $.75 per day, or 50 percent of the typical adult income in rural Kenya.

"Omidyar Network’s foundational belief that empowering people frees them to better themselves, their families, and their communities has great evidence in the growing literature around the benefits of cash transfers," its announcement reads. "In these programs, low income individuals who receive cash benefits achieve remarkable outcomes in country after country: improvements in nutrition, household income, status of women, school attendance, and a range of other positive indicators."

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The organization also believes cash transfer programs can help address issues in society, such as rising income volatility, lack of secure benefits, social instability and the changing nature of work, which includes the move towards automation.

The Omidyar Network hopes supporting GiveDirectly's large-scale program will offer insight into how a UBI program impacts a society.

"The best part of this experiment is that we won’t have to wait 12 years for answers. In the first few years GiveDirectly will already be able to produce insights on how people behave when they have confidence in long-term, 'no-strings-attached' income," the announcement states.

"While we don’t know what the right answer will be, or whether UBI will prove useful or feasible, this is an important first step on generating data, so that policymakers can make informed decisions," it said.

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The Omidyar Network invested nearly half a million dollars in the program, according to Mashable.

Sources: Omidyar Network, Mashable / Photo credit: superchr0nic/Flickr

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