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Controversy has been raised in the US on a homeless issue, but not one readers will have come across before - using rough sleepers as 4G wifi hotspots!
The idea came from a New York advertising agency, who premiered their innovation at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, by employing 13 rough sleepers from a local shelter to act as walking wireless internet providers. Agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty developed the idea and launched the scheme at the festival in March. The ‘hotspots’ - Clarence is pictured - were paid for their day’s work, as well as given a share of the wifi they sold.
The plan had been to then expand the project into other cities, such as New York, in a bid to replace dependency on street newspapers in the digital age. The scheme saw the volunteers carrying small WiFi devices, which produced the broadband, whilst sporting t-shirts saying, “I’m [name], 4G hotspot.”
However, Bartle Bogle Hegarty hadn’t anticipated the outrage expressed by some media, who saw this move as exploitative of those involved, although that view wasn’t shared by those participating.
Soon after its launch, and a flurry of mixed coverage online and in print, the agency announced that it wouldn’t continue after the trial period during the festival. Speaking to the New York Post, Emma Cookson of Bartle Bogle Hegarty said, “we have no definite, specific future plans yet, in New York City or elsewhere. This was an initial trial program.
“We are now listening carefully to the high level of feedback, trying to learn and respond, and we will then consider what is appropriate to do next.”