Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Homeless Hotspots

Saw this in the news. Thought I would share. (Yes, I know --- little new posting this year; I have been traveling and when not traveling, recently got laid low in the wake of an immunization that was supposed to prevent that very thing.) Anyway, here goes:
In the bygone days of print, homeless people made money selling "street newspapers," publications created to promote entrepreneurship. Now that the world has gone digital, the New York-based advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty agues, it's time to update the model.

Such is the rationale behind Homeless Hotspots, a program the company's BBH Labs is debuting at this year's SXSW Interactive in Austin. It works just like it sounds: During the convention, homeless volunteers walk around downtown with MiFi devices. Attendees wishing to partake of their Internet connection can pay what they wish, either via PayPal or with cold-hard cash.

All Homeless Hotspots participants are enrolled in the case management program at Front Steps Shelter, a local nonprofit, but even with that organization's endorsement, the project is proving extremely controversial.

"It is a neat idea on a practical level, but also a little dystopian," wrote David Gallagher of the New York Times. "When the infrastructure fails us ... we turn human beings into infrastructure?"

Defending the idea to Jon Mitchell of Read Write Web, Saneel Radia of BBH Labs said the main priorities are "social engagement" and "daily income."

"Somehow, our intent has been lost in here," Radia said. "What we're trying to do is say the street newspaper model works. It's the output of it that ... We fear for its future, and there's no one working on solving this problem."
This question was posed at the end of the article I read on Spinner, which has a video interview that you might like to watch. I think it is a good questions: "What do you think -- is this a new twist on an old idea or the first step down a slippery slope?"

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