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28 February 2008 @ 1pm


Google offers free GrandCentral voicemail to SF homeless

Update: the more I think about this, the more I do actually feel cynical about this after all. See TechCrunch for a posting that goes behind the PR and looks at the politics involved here. In the end though – no matter the politics – I still feel this is a useful initiative in the end.

As a sidenote – Mike Arrington’s comments on the story are interesting…

Just last week, Google offered accounts to its GrandCentral life-long phone number and voicemail service to all bloggers who wanted one (and really to anyone who cared to sign up). Today, in what is surely also a good marketing move, Google started offering GrandCentral phone-numbers to San Francisco’s shamefully large homeless population:

How do you communicate as a homeless individual? ” Newsom asked. “How do you expect your life to turn around if you can’t even get information or if someone can’t even get in touch with you?”

“It just seems exactly like any other voice mail,” said Craig Walker, senior project manager of Google. “There’s no stigma attached to it that ‘hey this is a temporary thing’ or ‘this is an 800 number.’ It’s really just a local number owned by the user.”

Makes a lot of sense to me. If you have ever been to SF, homelessness is a very real and pressing problem there – even more so in a country as rich as the US.

As much as I want to be cynical about this, I have to give props to Google for getting this project going. And if they get some publicity out of this, that’s fine with me.

On a sidenote, I wonder if this is going to mean that GrandCentral is going to see a grand re-opening to the public soon – without having to know the right page to go to.

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