• Digital Suitcase

last modified July 11, 2009 by tomlowenhaupt

­­­­­­­­Here we focus on the development of a “Digital Suitcase” that would provide New York City’s homeless population with an increasingly necessary resource, a presence on the Internet. ­The Digital Suitcase proposal was created in response to a city Request for Information.


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(Commons Photo courtesy of Paul Lowry
























The Digital Suitcase proposal arises from several observations. One of the obstacles t­he homeless often face in their effort to return to productive society is prejudice and discrimination that arises from using plastic bags for transporting their belongings. These bags are frequently seen as an overt sign of homelessness and induce negative reactions from prospective housing and employment providers. As a response, entities such as the Salvation Army now solicit and provide used luggage to the homeless, provided both for its utilitarian benefits and for the deterrence it provides to prejudice.

The second observation is of the general human aversion to showing weakness. Thus, many in need, neglect to wear a hearing aide, use a white cane, or refuse to attend an event for the lack of proper clothing. ­

And by far the most important basis for our Digital Suitcase recommendation is that in today’s society one needs Internet resources to participate in the work and social environment.


T­he Digital Suitcase would contain four items:

  • Good Domain Name – A good domain name is short, descriptive, and memorable. A good domain name is frequently seen as a symbol of intellect and competence. For the homeless (and us all) there is a need to have as respectable looking presence on the net as in our personal appearance. So not James.Jones.NYC-Dept-of-Homeless.nyc.gov, or www.James.Jones203.FreeSite.com/?php. A good name is James.Jones.nyc. To avoid prejudice, a good domain name for the homeless should be indiscernible from other quality names within the .nyc TLD. It should be a name that is permanent and usable in good times as well as bad. This domain name will also be part of the recipients email address - James@James-Jones.nyc. While by today’s standards this may seem a luxury, with the implementation of the ICANN's new TLD policy, good names will soon be commonplace.

  • A Personal Computer – New “netbook” computers that are small, transportable, rugged, and inexpensive are now available.
  • Training on Using the Internet – Training on developing one’s website, e.g., developing and posting a resume, and on using email will provide many advantages. Training centers that guide the homeless to a range of immediately useful services available on the Net - jobs, housing, additional education and training, food resources... are vital. As well, these centers will prepare the user with the basic skills one needs in today’s workforce.
  • WiFi Access – These training centers should provide WiFi access, as libraries and some parks and other public areas do today. And we urge that additional venues providing WiFi access for the homeless be provided, with funds sought through the Broadband Initiative.

The Digital Suitcase project will have a small impact in terms of domain name usage, but it provides an indication of the breadth of uses to which the .nyc TLD might be applied.

As usual, we welcome the community's thoughts on this concept.


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