In a recent East Bay Express article, For-Profit 911 Cellphone Service Coming to Oakland in February, Darwin BondGraham writes:
"A company called BlueLight plans to roll out a smartphone app that works as a subscription-based 911 service in Oakland next month. The service cost $20 a year and promises users that when they dial 911 from anywhere in Oakland, the Oakland Police Department will have access to their exact geographic location, making for a faster response. But the app appears to be widening the tech-fueled inequality gap. Will those able to afford smartphones and a BlueLight subscription receive superior emergency services over those who cannot?"
It's an interesting moment in the Bay Area, where apps are changing our relationships to so many of our services -- transportation, food, health, etc. The controversy over this new 911 app, Bluelight, reminds me of my reporting about 911 in 2013 which explored the potential for socioeconomic and racial disparities in access to emergency response here in Oakland. I can see the upside to having an app that routes a 911 calls directly to OPD -- though they'd need more dispatch center resources to take all those calls! But I can also see the concerns that this could widen the divide between people who have smartphones and can pay for this app, and those who can't.