So is this the craziest thing you’ve seen? Or the smartest? Homeless people are being used as wireless hotspots at the splashy SXSW Interactive conference. Mashable tells us 13 homeless guys have MiFi hotspots on them that visiting conference-goers can access in exchange for a donation:
Attendees were encouraged to donate money to the “Homeless Hotspots” based on the amount of time they spent online, with a suggested donation of $2 for every 15 minutes. Money was collected via PayPal, with all of the proceeds of a hotspot going directly to the homeless person who was wearing it.
The creators of the project say it mimics those nifty homeless-produced newspapers like ‘Streetwise’ you sometimes are asked to buy in major cities but in a Washington Post commentary, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite points out:
Streetwise, I contend, is a way for Moody and many other vendors like him to have some basic dignity, not only in the way he makes money from selling papers, but from their online showcasing of their work as creators, as artists, as people of ability.
Clarence, on the other hand, stands on the street with equipment strapped to him and is a means to someone else’s connectivity.
If we cannot see the difference, then as a society we have truly lost our moral compass.
The marketing agency which created the idea says it’s reconsidering the concept:
‘We have no definite, specific future plans yet, in New York City or elsewhere. This was an initial trial program,’ said Emma Cookson, chairman of BBH New York. ‘We are now listening carefully to the high level of feedback.’
We’re not sure it’s quite the end of our humane society though, it’s really no different than a sandwich board or a person handing out flyers and if the money is really going to them, well, how can we not hope that it works.