From the West Ender about Phones for Fearless Campaign

NEWS: Technology for all

Posted By: Jackie Wong
12/31/2008 12:00 AM
Re: Phones for Fearless campaign for Raincity Studios and Fearless City

A used cellphone or digital camera might linger in the dusty depths of a closet — or worse, in a landfill — for years. But now, local tech developers, community organizers and artists are breathing new life into used mobile devices with Vancouver’s Phones for Fearless campaign, a project that aims to gather used cellphones and digital cameras for redistribution in the Downtown Eastside, enabling neighbourhood residents to tell their stories with the technology and, ultimately, connect with family and jobs.

The campaign is organized by local web services agency Raincity Studios along with Fearless City, a non-profit organization that uses mobile technology to provide resources and cultural outreach to Downtown Eastside residents. The Phones for Fearless campaign has been operating since December 23, and is currently soliciting donations of used digital cameras, cellphones (preferably with video, camera, or wi-fi functions), chargers, and spare batteries. Donations can be dropped off at the Roundhouse Community Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews), Pathways (390 Main Street), or Raincity Studios (1 Alexander Street).

“A consistent problem we experience in the Downtown Eastside is being represented sensationally by outside media, fueling the notion of a helpless community,” says Irwin Oostindie, who coordinates the Fearless City mobile campaign. “Fearless City is a project to confront the digital divide in one of Canada’s poorest inner cities, while providing access and peer training to community generated media so that residents in our neighbourhood can control their own representation.”

Developers at Raincity Studios have been using Twitter, Flickr, and blogging platforms to spread the word of the Phones for Fearless campaign. “The thing that’s neat about using tools like Twitter, blogs, and Flickr is it opens us up to a much bigger audience,” says Dave Olson of Raincity Studios. “We’re getting responses from California and Ottawa. It really gives us an opportunity to amplify our message to a much wider area, and much more quickly.”

Once the phones are collected and inventoried by Raincity and Fearless City workers, they will be available to Downtown Eastside residents on an as-needed basis, enabling residents to engage with mobile technologies that might otherwise be unavailable to them due to financial barriers. “Many people can afford the occasional use of a device without being caught in an expensive data plan,” says Oostindie. “It’s about a ‘handset’-up, not a handout — giving people access to appropriate technology to be engaged citizens, not merely surviving below a glass ceiling of independence.”

KK with a handful

Kris Krug, a developer with Raincity Studios, holds up the first batch of used cellphones and other electronic devices donated to the Phones for Fearless campaign

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