Posted by: Ann Treacy | March 13, 2012

Homeless Hotspots: Buddy can you spare a byte?

This isn’t a Minnesota story – but it could be. I’m very torn on whether I think it’s genius or just a little strange. Apparently a test was debuted at SXSW.

Here’s the description from the website…

Homeless Hotspots is a charitable innovation initiative by BBH New York. It attempts to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations.

As digital media proliferates, these newspapers face increased pressure. Our hope is to create a modern version of this successful model, offering homeless individuals an opportunity to sell a digital service instead of a material commodity. SxSW Interactive attendees can pay what they like to access 4G networks carried by our homeless collaborators. This service is intended to deliver on the demand for better transit connectivity during the conference.

WebProNews offered a pretty succinct description…

The experiment–which has already ended–debuted at SXSW this year and involved thirteen homeless participants as mobile hotspots; each person was given their own MiFi device and a t-shirt emblazoned with the words, “I am a 4G hotspot.” Also included was their name and a code which gives customers access to 4G broadband service. Minutes could be purchased for a donation of the customer’s choice, although the recommended price was $2.00 for fifteen minutes of service.

WebProNews seemed to feel that this was a potentially dehumanizing experiment. I don’t know.

I have to say that I’ve been in places where I would have gladly paid someone for wireless access. And it seems like a more fruitful approach than simply asking folks for money, which is an option some people take.

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