By Amy Tucker, Sparrow Co-founder and Chief Impact Officer
First, in the spirit of transparency, this is a post about two things I’m passionate (and definitely biased) about: my company, Sparrow, and fostering a more sustainable, inclusive and joyful world. The opinions expressed here are my own.
In defending the GOP’s proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) offered Americans a nonsensical choice: Your smartphone or your health care.
At Sparrow, we want to offer an alternative to Chaffetz’s unthinkable choice by giving you the opportunity to help people gain access to health care information, affordable housing, job opportunities and much more — just by paying your mobile bill.
Is a smartphone connection to the world really a frilly luxury, as Chaffetz suggests? Seriously, how many days could you go without your smartphone? Could you afford an $825-per-month health care payment if you had no a smartphone to help you find and keep your job? And what kind of smartphone is Mr. Chaffetz using anyway, gold plated?
It has been only 10 years since the first iPhone, but smartphones already stopped being a luxury long ago and became a necessity for participating in today’s economy. The average American looks at their phone 46 times a day. Collectively, that’s 8 billion times a day, according to a study by Deloitte. And in the U.S., with over 370 million active subscriptions, there are more mobile phones than people.
“The phone has meant so much to me. I was able to get pictures of my dad before he passed away. I was able to get pictures and I have them in my phone and I’m very grateful.” Anon, Impact Sparrow, Richmond, CA
Despite this, many Americans cannot afford a fully-functioning smartphone or reliable service, because it would require them to face a choice between feeding their family or paying their wireless phone bill. When you’re trying to make ends meet, without a reliable smartphone, it’s even more difficult to get employment, find affordable housing, connect with your support network and access the many things most of us take for granted. All this is especially difficult when your phone number changes due to lack of payment, your smartphone is subpar or you do not have a computer or internet at home, which means the phone is your only Internet connection and, as Pew Research points out, your only path to researching a medical condition or finding health care.
Smartphones can accelerate someone’s pathway out of poverty and help them gain self sufficiency. In one of our Bay Area homeless programs, with donated smartphones and service, 19% of participants got housed and 23% got jobs in just 10 weeks.
“My phone has done a lot for my attitude. Keeping in touch with family and friends has helped me keep a positive drive. The phone helped me get a couple of jobs, too.” Albert G., Impact Sparrow, Antioch, CA
Sparrow is applying buy-one-give-one mobile service to bridge the digital divide and empower people with the power of connection. For every person who switches their wireless service to Sparrow (Sponsor Sparrows), we donate a smartphone or a month of service to someone in need (Impact Sparrows). We have programs serving women, youth, refugees and the homeless with the goal of creating pathways out of poverty and connecting people with opportunity.
Sparrow sponsor customers get high-quality service on America’s top wireless networks (think red and yellow), competitive rates, and mobile service that aligns with their values by helping someone in need.
“We love that our mobile is doing good.” Nathan W., Sponsor Sparrow, San Francisco
Suggesting people choose between a smartphone and health care is unconscionable and out of touch with American values. It is also, as many have now pointed out, a false choice economically.
More importantly, the measure of what makes America great is not how wealthy the richest of us are, but how well off we all are and how much we do to improve the lives and opportunities of those with the least.
Sparrow was founded on the simple belief that together, we can create a better world for everyone. If you’re interested in putting your values to work at no extra cost to you, align your mobile service with your commitment to help others. We invite you to join the Sparrow movement by signing up here.
This article was originally published on Medium.