Question Using Technology Just Because It’s There

Sometimes even those trying to do a good deed are questionable in how they do it – especially when the use or presentation of technology come into play.  In the case of the charity, Obra do Berço in Rio, they devised what seems to be an alternate way to give money than through panhandlers in cars. You can see in the YouTube video how they showcase the technology and more questions arise than answers.

Courtesy of Obra do Berço

Courtesy of Obra do Berço

The technology they present as a form to raise funds for homeless kids is an SMS program – THE SOS SMS – that enables drivers to shut their windows on kids at street corners who are looking for change and make the donation quickly through their phones.  Seems simple enough – but there are so many issues in this setup – beyond the fact that it seems everyone has been hired for this video through Brazil’s version of Central Casting.

1) Its a shame that there are so many homeless children in the 6th Largest economy in the world. Is it more shameful that they are supporting the adults to ignore them in human terms? It seems bizarre that closing windows and turning away to donate to an organization would be thought of as being humane.

2) With their concept of hiding an SMS transmitter at an intersection, that does not lead to automatically being able to generate the mobile number to allow for an SMS communication.  The privacy issues on that alone would be enough to cause major concern.  Perhaps their better solution is through Bluetooth communications.  But, this would also rely on users turning that feature on and would not be automatic.

3) The utilization of high technology to solve a problem that is anything but high technology would cause concern for most people.  What is at its core a humanitarian action becomes a seemingly corporate one. It could be somewhat effective, but might it turn off more people than it turns on?

We could go on, but it seems pretty set and dried.  Sadly, I cannot read Portuguese, so I couldn’t find any supporting literature on their site as to how many locations have this technology or even if it is real.

Ultimately, the hope is that they were just trying to make a social statement with this campaign and not actually roll-out a non-solution like this. They did have some very engaging copy at the end of the video:

Obra_IgnoreSadly, it has become too easy to be enamored with our technology and ignore more important things around us. Even if we don’t get stuck in this perplexing situation at a Rio street corner, hopefully we can take something away from this and realize that high technology is not always the solution just because its available.

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