Thursday, March 15, 2012

Homeless Hotspots

Clarence, happy to work.

In an interesting twist combining blatant advertising with a rampant social issue, BBH Labs, a British advertising agency, came up with the idea of giving homeless people in Austin Texas wireless routers and allowing them to sell wi-fi time to people on the street at The Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) is an annual film and music festival. Billed as the festival where “The World Comes to Austin,” the festival gets a good showing from the local college crowd and visitors from all over the world.

The idea was inspired by Street Newspapers. This is the national paper printed by the NASNA and sold to homeless people for them to sell and deals editorially with homeless and unemployment issues in America.

The shirts the people wear offer their name and password, and once the prospective customer logs on with their phone or laptop, they can make a payment of whatever amount they like. The suggested value is $2 for every 15 minutes of usage. All money paid will go directly to the homeless individual, who is also making an hourly wage for his work.

BBH Labs felt that selling newspapers was an outdated commercial model, and that turning homeless people into Wi-Fi hotspots was more intelligent and sound for the smartphone age.

Some media outlets have criticized the move, but all of the volunteers embraced the idea. "They're giving us the opportunity to work," says Mark West. "You're proving a service for the public. It's like an individual business."

Al Gore is the headline speaker for SXSW 2012 and Andrew Bird is the featured musical performer. Transfer Smart will do a presentation at the show. The official site for Homeless Hotspots provides information on the 13 men who worked the event as hotspots.

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