A week or so ago Bill Easterly tweeted a quip about how Soccket (a soccer ball when kicken become a power socket) was a sign of the wrong way to do development. The video below is well produced and worth a watch at the end you might even want to donate. Who wouldn't want a bunch of kids to play soccer all day and study into the night?
The website for is here. In short you can send one of these balls for $60 to a country of your choice. My guess is Easterly's problem and mine is that the website doesn't really cite any evidence that it is a good way to spend $60. A while back I cited Bruce Wydick's piece on the best bang for the buck in development. One thing worth noticing is that most of the favored policies are relatively cheap per treated individual (deworming medicine, clean water, bed nets) even clean stoves run about $15 a piece. The one exception is child sponsor program actually also seem to have big impact on key development outcomes.
Two thoughts. I doubt giving a soccket could do any harm directly, I think most economists worry about the opportunity cost. It is unclear if those donating soccket's would have donated money to deworming or clean water instead or just would have spent the money on themselves.
Soccket should take this criticism as a challenge to evaluate the impact of giving one to a child. Does it help children study more, are they less likely to be obese (actually a problem in some of the targeted countries), or are there other outcomes that it improves. Maybe they have done this but I couldn't find it on their website. A similarly criticized program Tom's shoes gave one free pair of shoes to a poor child when you bought a pair of shoes (see here for a review). I think Tom's may have taken the criticism to heart as Bruce Wydick and others appear to be doing a randomized study of Tom's potential impact on the children who receive them.
Finally, one thing worth noting to do a study of the soccket starting small might be the right approach. Here is a run down of the evaluation of one lap top per child which might provide a framework how to proceed.