"The smartphone giveaway program, though small, typifies the way Bay Area tech companies have started to respond to the glaring homelessness problem right outside their luxurious company campuses: not by donating clothes or serving food, but by using technology.
Sometimes, Silicon Valley’s belief that tech can solve any problem — not just ordering cabs and sharing selfies, but ending homelessness or poverty — can seem like a stretch. Even Bill Gates, a founder of Microsoft, has argued against the idea. “P.C.s are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs,” he said in a 2013 interview.
In the United States, though, Internet access has in many ways become like a basic need. Without it, it can be difficult to find a home, apply for a job, sign up for classes, make homeless shelter reservations or find soup kitchens. And for people who live on the streets, smartphones are the most efficient way to connect to the Internet. So while clothing and food are vital, advocates say equipping homeless and low-income people with phones and technical skills also makes sense."