Sometimes I really worry about the ubiquitous use of smartphones by young Americans since I believe they are increasingly becoming disconnected to the real world around them. And then I read about how smartphones can help other Americans become connected to a new world they had never experienced before. Some of these Americans are much older and unfortunately, homeless.
Ironically, much of this smartphone philanthropy seems to be happening in Silicon Valley, California, but not due to the largesse of the Tech companies that call it home. The nonprofit sector seems to be the most concerned with addressing this inequity. Remember the old adage, “Charity begins at home.” Maybe the problem is that charity is an old-fashioned concept, and the technology of the twenty-first century is seen as the engine of economic growth and not considered an opportunity (survival) tool for many others? Melinda Gates clearly understands how the cellphone can empower women in the developing world, and help lift their families out of poverty (NY Times, 4/1/15). We should also be looking in our own backyards in America, and I am not just referring to Silicon Valley.
Just as we can so easily connect globally with friends and colleagues anywhere in the world, we should be able to expand the world of the homeless in our own country. I recently visited an urban homeless shelter where residents had access to a computer lab that was closely monitored and supervised. Not a bad start, but I think there is more individual empowerment when the technology becomes more mobile.