New Microsoft GPS App May Hurt Urban Economies, Say Critics

February 21, 2012, By George Lang

A couple months ago DeviceMAG introduced a new mobile software application from Microsoft. Certain features of the GPS driven mapping app have the ability to guide travelers around high crime areas. Some in the media have gotten hold of this news and have dubbed it the “avoid ghetto app.”

Controversy and questions have begun to swirl around Microsoft’s purpose in offering such a service: Is it racially motivated? How will it affect businesses located in depressed areas? Some have gone so far as to blame Microsoft for damaging the economies of minority neighborhoods.

First of all, let’s assume the application will, indeed, affect high-crime and low-income neighborhoods. In fact, common sense tells us this would surely be the case. If potential customers are rerouted around these neighborhoods, the impact could not possibly be positive.

But placing blame on Microsoft ignores the primary reason potential consumers would be utilizing the service. The danger inherent in entering these neighborhoods is the effective motivation an individual might purchase Microsoft’s product; i.e., Microsoft is offering a more useful product for the particular individual than the risky products offered in the “ghetto.”

Last time I checked, it was a free enough country for you to purchase from the entrepreneur who was offering you the best value for your money; the value YOU cherish the most.

Nonetheless, the assumption that economic hardship could befall local business in downtown areas is a sound one. Personally, I believe any half-witted local would know where these areas are anyway – without the help of Microsoft – and would avoid them on their own if they so wished. Therefore, the reasons for purchasing the service might be similar to those made for purchasing the Pet Rock: Great Advertising! A very poor reason indeed.

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