Homeless People Made Into Wireless Networks At SXSW

Participants were allowed to keep all of the profits generated by their work

If you have ever had the good fortune to be at the enormous SXSW festival, you’ll know that the Wi-Fi connections fade for all of Austin for the duration of the event. So a public relations agency, BBH, decided to set up a campaign not affiliated with the official program of the event, which lasted until yesterday. Christened as “ Homeless Hotspots”, the campaign used 13 people from a local shelter and gave them wireless routers. Then they “positioned themselves strategically” around the city, offering festival-goers the possibility of buying access to the 4G network from a telephone, a laptop, or a tablet. Each homeless person kept all of the profits generated by his or her collaboration.

Although the initiative was heavily criticised by some sectors (for example, because as a part of the project the homeless people were required to wear t-shirts saying “I’m a 4G hotspot”), the heads of BBH defended themselves by saying that the programme adapted the model of selling street newspapers, which the homeless themselves produce and sell. In fact, on their website, they say that their long-term goal is to provide the homeless community with a digital writing platform.

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