Photo: Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider
Standing outside the convention centre, Mark was yelling out “Wi-Fi… Wi-Fi… Wi-Fi…” to the super connected crowd attending SXSW in Austin, Texas.His shirt says it all: “I’m Mark, I’m A 4G Hotspot.”
For the Internet-hungry, Mark is literally a walking hotspot.
He has a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot hanging around his neck in a Ziploc bag.
He’s participating in Homeless Hotspots, an experiment being run by BBH New York ad agency. It’s an attempt to bring the Street Newspaper model into the digital age and give homeless a chance to make money.
He told us he has been homeless for 6 months, after he was laid off from his job. He couldn’t pay his bills and had bad credit so he moved into a homeless shelter a few blocks away from the convention centre.
He’s happy that his case manager from the homeless shelter got him this gig with Homeless Hotspots. He said it feels like he’s running his own business. Unlike the other companies that come in, Mark feels that at least BBH is getting more involved and interacting with them personally.
He’s using SXSW as a chance to network and talk to people. Instead of holding up a sign and begging for money, he said, he’d rather provide a service for people who may need access to Internet. People can pay him a suggested donation of $2 per 15 minutes via a PayPal account.
Several other homeless people who are participating in the program, scattered around the conference centre. Some people have taken offence to the fact that the homeless are being marketed like gadgets. But from the looks of it, Mark seemed pretty happy to be there.
Here’s our interview.