Smartphones are getting to be ubiquitous in western society and they are about to get a bit more so, with the announcement that homeless Big Issue vendors will be equipped with the latest handsets.
In what seems like an unlikely combination, the founders of The Big Issue are hoping that the homeless people who sell the charity magazine will become news gatherers and share their experiences via their new smartphones. Vendors will be encouraged to tweet, blog, update their Facebook status or upload photos about what is happening them on the streets. John Bird, MBE, who founded the Big Issue, sees this as a means of helping homeless people to help themselves. “Big Issue vendors stand on streets up and down the country come rain or shine, hence they are uniquely connected to their local area. We want them to become the eyes and ears of their neighbourhoods, offering a unique perspective and simultaneously developing the skills which will get them off the streets.” said Bird.
John Bird, MBE - founder of The Big Issue
As well as helping them engage with a wider group of people, Bird hopes using the smartphones will equip them with a set of skills they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to develop. The move sees parallels with the announcement last week that the BBC agreed to issue its reporters with iPhones to file reports including live and recorded audio, video and still images. The Big Issue has a policy of “a hand up, not a hand out” and this is another step in that direction. We are waiting to hear back from a spokesperson regarding where content from the vendors will be displayed but we would certainly hope there would be a central website where homeless people from around the country can relay their experiences.
With the advent of the smartphones, a lot of our daily lives are shared with the world via social networks and this latest scheme means a section of society which previously didn’t have a voice in this space, will be able to tell its story.