Austin's Homeless Turned into Wi-Fi Hotspots for SXSW

Austin's Homeless Turned into Wi-Fi Hotspots for SXSW
Annual music industry showcase South by Southwest kicks off tomorrow (March 13) in Austin, TX, and the action-packed event will no doubt have thousands of journos, musicians and musc fans trying to frantically tweet about their experience. An advertising agency has capitalized on people's thirst for the perfect 4G hotspot, and have employed homeless people as target points for wi-fi connections.

Wired reports that advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty's Homeless Hotspots project will have homeless Austinites from the nearby Front Steps Shelter walking around the city sporting T-shirts with the slogan "I am a 4G hotspot" on them. Each individual will be carrying a MIFi device that will aid smartphone users trying to access their email or social media accounts.

The idea is to have new media users approach the homeless and offer them some money, either in cash or through a PayPal link, for access to the network. PayPal contributions are said to go straight to the individual you're in contact with. You can see profiles of individual sellers on the Homeless Hotspots website.

The business template was built on old-school newspaper street vendor programs, but with a modern twist, "offering homeless individuals an opportunity to sell a digital service instead of a material commodity."

Questions have, however, been raised about the arguably exploitative nature of the project, like why BBH rolled with the phrase "I am a 4G hotspot" instead of something a less dehumanizing like "I manage a 4G hotspot."