I don't have a home right now, but if you leave a message...
Google's latest cool thing isn't even a piece of software. It's persistent phone numbers and voicemail boxes for homeless people.
Folks can sign up for the numbers at shelters across the city. The numbers will be local and personal -- i.e., each person will get a unique [San Francisco] area code number that will never expire. The number will ring a voice-mail box that will play a personalized greeting; homeless people can check their messages by dialing in from any phone.
Google announced the plan at an event with Mayor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday. The service, Newsom said, will help people who are filling out job applications or are awaiting medical test results. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Google has already handed out more than 4,000 numbers.
This is one of those rare win/win/win opportunities for everyone involved. The homeless win because they now have a significant lifeline out of the vicious cycle of homelessness - a tool to help get a job, medical services, etc.. The prospective employers, doctors, etc. win because they have ways of reaching people who ordinarily would be "off the grid." And Google wins, because they can now build this service into their existing suite of tools, driving even more traffic to their properties, increasing and expanding the value of their advertising placements. Also, there's the increase in good will with the general public that will likely result.
Now, if only their awesomeness would return to their stock price...
(full disclosure: I'm a shareholder)
posted by Brian at 1:24 PM