• Social Innovation Fellowship


Mathematics and Computer Science

Award Year 


Providence, RI

TextRI is a texting platform that leverages text messaging to enable dynamic two-way communication between service providers and the homeless population of Rhode Island (RI). By aggregating and updating information on a single consolidated platform, TextRI enables service providers like homeless shelters to send text alerts with emergency information to subscribers, and allows users to query about availability of beds. TextRI aims to optimize communication in service delivery by shelters, food trucks and health clinics to create a paradigm shift in the way information is transmitted across social welfare networks in RI.

My father owns a small stall in a market in Singapore, and he hand makes You Tiao, a famous chinese fried bread stick eaten in East and Southeast Asian cultures. I worked in my father’s stall from ages 8 ‐18 years old where I sold You Tiao and interacted with people from all walks of life – from the homeless to the upper class in Singapore. I saw how disrespectful, discriminating and heartless people could be to the homeless, and how misunderstood they actually are. 

In my freshman year at Brown, I was fascinated with Mathematics and Computer Science. Yet, in Brown’s Computer Science (CS) Department, I felt out of place as the majority of the people wanted to work in big enterprises like Google or Microsoft, or startups like Dropbox or Uber. This is neither my goal nor the reason I came to Brown; I was not interested in creating products for people who had the money to pay for them. I have a bigger dream:
I want to use technology for social change to empower people who lack the resources to do so.

No one really talks about or cares to understand more about the homeless community all around the world. In my interviews with the homeless in RI, often they say "I do not see myself as homeless", "this is a transitory period, I will not be homeless for long". In my interviews, it struck me deeply that it may be the fault of the system and not the individual. No one chooses which family, class, race, gender, country to be born into. I am so thankful to have come from Singapore to Brown University that I cannot use my skills solely for myself. I need to use my skills for social good -- to improve service delivery in the homeless community.