Looking Towards the Future with Mobile

Content From: Jeremy Vanderlan, AIDS.gov Technical Deputy, and Michelle Samplin-Salgado, AIDS.gov New Media StrategistPublished: January 19, 20103 min read


In the past week, text messaging to raise funds for earthquake relief in Haiti demonstrated the potential of mobile phones to offer simple solutions to help those in need. The emergence of smart phonesExit Disclaimer , mapping technologyExit Disclaimer and mobile applicationsExit Disclaimer has dramatically increased mobile use — a recent poll from the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 83% of adults surveyed have some type of cell phoneExit Disclaimer . At HIV.gov, we asked ourselves what we should be doing to integrate mobile technology into our work on public health, HIV/AIDS, and new media. I recently attended the Gov Goes Mobile workshop, gave a presentation on some of our work at HIV.gov, and heard take-away messages from leaders in the field.

Because mobile is so popular (as we’ve mentioned in previous posts), it is tempting to jump in with both feet to try and create a mobile applicationExit Disclaimer . At HIV.gov, it’s all about content and so we are working to build a mobile presence incrementally.

Our existing mobile features at HIV.gov include the KNOWIT (566948) code that allows mobile users to text their ZIP code and receive the location of the closest HIV testing site . Many of the social network sites that we participate in, such as TwitterExit Disclaimer and FacebookExit Disclaimer , include mobile features — which means that some HIV.gov messages can be received via smartphone applications like TweetdeckExit Disclaimer , UberTwitterExit Disclaimer , or Facebook mobileExit Disclaimer . We have also implemented mobile-specific style sheetsExit Disclaimer on the HIV.gov website that minimize or remove some of the graphic and navigational elements, to make the content more readable when the site is accessed on a mobile device.

We plan to create a mobile-specific site, with targeted content for mobile users (such as “Find an HIV Test Site”) and device detection, so that mobile users will be automatically redirected to the mobile site rather than the current HIV.gov home page. This is a common practice on major websites including CNN.comExit Disclaimer or Yahoo.comExit Disclaimer — users are directed to content and a user interface that are tailored specifically to the device they are using to access the Internet. We also plan to implement a texting “short codeExit Disclaimer” for HIV/AIDS specific information and campaign-related messaging that can be sent to a base of subscribers.

Another step for HIV.gov may be developing mobile applications for devices like the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. For HIV.gov, these applications could provide information on where to locate HIV/AIDS services, as well real-time, HIV/AIDS-specific information. An emphasis on texting campaigns, especially centered around National HIV Testing Day and World AIDS Day, would also broaden HIV.gov’s mobile reach. Text is the most common technology available on mobile devices (it is the one feature that almost every mobile phone has), so it serves as a common denominator for disseminating information in its most basic form.

Texting is often most meaningful in service of a campaign that is either time or location specific. Again, for a powerful example of this, check out two texting campaigns the Red Cross and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund created to help raise donations for Haiti: customers of participating wireless carriers can text “HAITI” to 90999 and make a $10 donation to support the American Red Cross Haiti relief effortsExit Disclaimer , or can text the word “QUAKE” to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Bush Haiti FundExit Disclaimer , charged to your cell phone bill.

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How have you accessed HIV.gov services using your mobile phone? What kinds of services would you like to see HIV.gov provide via your mobile device? Are you familiar with any other mobile applications focused on HIV and AIDS? Let us know!