Final Project (Fall 2016) – The Use of Internet and ICTs in the Homeless Community: Waianae Harbor, by Tahna Lindquist and Haylee Mariucci

Contrary to what vacationers might think, homelessness is a huge issue in Hawaii. There are many factors that contribute to the homeless population in Hawaii, to name a few: high cost of living, the lack of good paying jobs, and drugs. Homelessness can be looked at from many different angle in Hawaii, people have different reasons and backgrounds on why and how they became homeless. Looking at the homeless population in Hawaii and how they use information and communication technologies (ICTs) can better explain what the homeless population uses ICTs for. With an in depth analysis of the digital divide it is proven that it is not a lack of technological availability, but rather the choice on whether to this technology and the value behind the usage. Through infield research and research of papers and journals it is proven that homelessness does not determine whether people use ICTs or not, but more so if they chose to use the ICTs. Depending on the severity of homelessness and lack of resources (internet, mobile phone/laptop, data) it can differ what people decide to use ICTs for. There are many different reasons why each individual within the homeless population in Hawaii decides to use the internet, this includes anything from gaming to online communication. On average an older person (40+) doesn’t see as much benefit of owning a smartphone with data as the average younger person (20-30). These findings are very similar to the middle class population. As a general statement, it is the younger generations that are finding greater benefits from using smart phones and the internet.
Looking at a specific population in Waianae, we were able to look at where this homeless community found it important to use ICTs and the internet. There is a homeless community in Waianae commonly known as “The Harbor”. The Harbor is a functioning homeless community that lives on 19 acres of land and is home to about 340 people, men, women, and children. Through the research conducted in the Harbor, it was found that the digital divide did not affect these people as much as one would assume. Data was collected by interviewing and talking story with 11 people, aged anywhere from of 20-70. It was made clear that the use of ICTs and the internet was a choice made by each individual person and not a consequence of being homeless. A majority of the people living in The Harbor had at least a mobile phone, additionally, many of the people had smartphones with internet. Reviewing the specifics of mobile phone usage, the survey’s results revealed an individualized component. The internet and ICTs allow for freedom, flexibility, and are self-driven. Because there was a component of choice, a majority of the people we interviewed, mostly used their smart phones for games and social media. Through the research at The Harbor it was concluded that even though the people at The Harbor are considered homeless, the resources needed to be part of this technologic society are not necessarily as limited as we originally thought. Another conclusion drawn, was in reference to the question, “What do you mainly use your phone for?” A majority of people answered that they mainly used their phones and mobile devices for games and social media, but we can conclude that this does not mean this was all they used their mobile devices for. When comparing these results to the middle class, we can expect that the answer would be similar. We assume this answer would be similar because people can use the internet for housing, medical, and, employment resources but on average that is not what people mainly the internet or their smart phones for.

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