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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 2 August, 2014

Homeless people used as internet hotspots at tech conference

Homeless people at the SXSW festival in Texas wear t-shirts that say “I am a 4G hotspot”, and carry devices which allow conference attendees to get online.

Image: Ed Yourdon via Flickr/Creative Commons

HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE being used as wireless internet hotspots at one of the biggest technology conferences in the world.

The homeless people in Austin, Texas have been enlisted by an advertising agency to walk around at the SXSW festival wearing t-shirts that say “I am a 4G hotspot”.

People attending the conference can pay what they like to access the wi-fi networks carried by the homeless people via a device that the person is carrying. The money goes directly to the homeless person, the company has said.

Critics have questioned whether the scheme was a prank or marketing idea, with several criticising the t-shirts for saying “I am a 4G hotspot” rather than “I have a 4G hotspot”.  However BBH, the advertising agency behind it,  says it is a “charitable innovation initiative”.

On its website, BBH said that the hotspots are an updated version of how homeless people in some countries sell street newspapers such as the Big Issue in order to make money, saying:

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

The website for the Homeless Hotspots project features a map with photographs and locations of around ten homeless people currently at SXSW along with details of their background.

What do you think? Exploitative, crass and inappropriate? Or a genuine way to help homeless people earn money?


Poll Results:




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