Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Free Rice and Free Education

Second in the series this week about free goods: how to enrich your vocabulary and provide food relief, both for free. FreeRice provides a vocabulary test, and for each answered questions provides some grains of rice to needy people.

How can this be pulled off? After all the website operators need to maintain a server, databank and buy bandwidth and rice. It is all financed by discreet ads at the bottom. So discreet in fact that I did not notice them until I saw them mentioned in the site's FAQ. Cost are relatively low, however: 1000 grains of rice cost in the order of one cent (wholesale), and the marginal cost of server traffic is close to zero.

This site has become a favorite in many schools, and these few grains a word certainly add up. As of today, the total is closing in on 25 billion grains, and their cost still add up to a quarter million dollars.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Pandora and FreeRice links, they are invaluable!

T-Bone said...

I've known about freerice for while. The automatically adjusting difficulty makes for consistently challenging vocab exercise.

I had no idea that it would cost anyone a quarter million to run the site though! Sure, it's a negligible amount in comparison to the amount of money raised, but I would have guessed the costs would have been a few hundred bucks at most. Couldn't someone like Google host the site for free???

Then again... I suppose if Google just paid to have have an additional advertisement on the site, they'd probably pay for many times over what the hosting costs.

Economic Logician said...

I may not have been clear, but a quarter million dollars is the cost of the rice "earned" so far.

T-Bone said...

Ah, I just read it wrong.

skyler said...

i'm sorry for commenting so late to this post, but i've been google the economics of free rice. since you consider yourself an economic logician, maybe you can help me with my question:
by providing a good like rice for free, aren't we theoretically putting local food providers for these people out of business? i mean why pay for food when there's potential for free rice, right?