Homeless people used as mobile Wi-Fi hotspots
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|Tue, 03-13-2012 - 10:42am|
A marketing agency touched off a wave of criticism and debate when it hired members of the local homeless population to walk around carrying mobile Wi-Fi devices, offering conferencegoers Internet access in exchange for donations.
BBH Labs, the innovation unit of the international marketing agency BBH, outfitted 13 volunteers from a homeless shelter with the devices, business cards and T-shirts bearing their names: “I’m Clarence, a 4G Hotspot.” They were told to go to the most densely packed areas of the conference, which has become a magnet for those who want to chase the latest in technology trends.
It paid each participant $20 a day, and they were also able to keep whatever customers donated in exchange for the wireless service. Mitchell Gibbs, the director of development at Front Steps, the shelter that houses the project volunteers, said he advised the director of innovation at BBH Labs on how best to set up the program.
He said he was surprised by all the criticism of the project, which he said had inspired an “entrepreneurial spirit” among its homeless participants.
What do you think? Is it exploitative or not? One volunteer, Clarence Jones, who said, “Everyone thinks I’m getting the rough end of the stick, but I don’t feel that,” Mr. Jones said. “I love talking to people and it’s a job. An honest day of work and pay.”