In Washington, D.C. the homeless are part of the landscape. An experience this evening was a vivid reminder of the digital divide – and what the smart phone community can do about it.
Tonight I was walking out of church – NCC’s location at the GALA Theatre in Columbia Heights. The message was serving in the local community and abroad. We got a nifty brochure on all the opportunities available.
Ironically, God must have been ready for me to put my passions into action – – ASAP. My friends and I stepped out into the bustling intersection at 14th and Park and an older woman approached us from under the movie marquee lights.
“Please,” she said, with tearful sobs, “Can you help me? I need to find a shelter tonight. And I’m hungry.”
I looked to my two friends and said, quite helplessly, “I don’t have a smart phone. Can one of you look up the address of a nearby shelter?” My two friends got to work, whipping out their GPS-enable devices.
But the best result that came up was “animal shelter,” and it was not going to do our friend Rita – as she introduced herself – much good.
This dilemma reminded me of the great brainstorming that came out of DC Week’s CityCamp DC, a two-day un-conference to plan tech projects to help the city. Ideas included bridging the digital divide with a computer lab on wheels, and donating smart phones to low-income job applicants.
Here’s what needs to be next: a smart phone app that can locate homeless shelters. And with a city full of smart-phone-toting professionals, why not use our privilege of technology to help our brothers and sisters who need a bed for the night? Maybe then we’d be less reluctant to help our neighbors on the street. We can begin put some of that wi-fi wealth to use.
I don’t have a smart phone, and I don’t know how to design smart phone apps, but there’s got to be someone who does. (Maybe something will come out of the next edition of Apps for Democracy? I defer to the Corbett bros., here….)