In the framework of the W4RA project to bridge the Digital Divide, and the student project Digitize Amsterdam, Carlbandro Edoga and Marc Hegeman examine the obstacles homeless people face in urban areas of the Netherlands when using technology. Thereby, they will investigate if there are needs that are unique for homeless people and thus require to adjust already existing technology. This research will focus on developing and designing a user-friendly software system that provides the target group with relevant information e.g. where to find shelter, food bank or medical aid.
“The reasons for becoming homeless are miscellaneous ranging from low level of education over unemployment to a lack of a supportive social network. Also the background such as a difficult childhood, learning disabilities and mental illnesses increase the chances of becoming homeless (Buré, 2006). Although it is difficult to precisely estimate the number of homeless people due to diverging definitions and a possibly high dark figure, roughly 31,000 people lived in the Netherlands without a permanent place to stay in 2015. This emphasizes the importance and omnipresence of homelessness in our contemporary society. With the entry of the digital era the question was raised, if technology can actually overcome inequalities between homeless and non-homeless people or, if it may even further the gap between them (Henwood and Wyatt, 2000). In any case, one can state that digitization, especially in form of the mobile phone, has drastically changed the way how we interact with each other and how we retrieve information across all socioeconomic classes. An important insight for our research was gained when (Rice et al., 2011) showed that almost half of the homeless youth indeed owns a smart phone. However, it was also described that these homeless adolescents tend to use social networks merely to communicate, whereas sheltered college students spend recreational time on social platforms and use them as source of information (Guadagno et al., 2013). “
Carlbandro’s research and Marc’s research have different focuses on the same theme of bridging the Amsterdam Digital Divide. The team aspires to contribute to a sustainable success of the entire project. See also Carlbandro’s presentation and Marc’s presentation.