Tuesday, June 24, 2008

FrontlineSMS Empowers People Around the Globe

Kiwanja.net has announced the release of the latest version of FrontlineSMS, a highly versatile, two-way group messaging system. Ken Banks, Kiwanja founder and originator of the FrontlineSMS concept says, "This new release has been a year in the making, and is the result of over two years worth of feedback from the NGO community. Not only is this an exciting day for us, but also for the countless grassroots NGOs out there who desperately need this kind of technology to help them make the first step onto the mobile technology ladder."

So what is Frontline SMS?
It basically turns a labtop and a mobile phone or modem into a communications hub. It runs on a laptop without the internet, so it is perfectly suited for mass communications in areas of the world where internet is unreliable and electical power often fails.

With FrontlineSMS, free to NGOs in developing countries, people can send messages, conduct surveys and orchestrate two-way communications campaigns with ease.

So far FrontlineSMS has been used by organizations in over forty countries for causes as different as healthcare worker coordination, election monitoring and market pricing for rural farmers and fishermen. The online tour takes you through the intuitive system and illustrates the just how easy (AND POWERFUL!) it is.

Yay FrontlineSMS!! Access meets elegance!!

ISIS Selected for BAVC Nonprofit Institute

ISIS has been selected to participate in the first Nonprofit Institute for New Media Applications hosted by the Bay Area Video Coalition! The institute will bring together 10 organizations to dream up new ways of incorporating mobile and new media technologies into everyday operation.

So for 6 intensive days over a three-week period in July, we will be immersed in development/mentorship/prototyping and we get to cavort around with the other selected groups, including folks from ACLU, Hosteling International, CEO Women, Center for Asian American Media, Youth Together and more!

Two special industry guests include Katrin Verclas, queen of all things mobile, and Beth Kanter, the last word in nonprofit technology strategy.

We'll keep you updated here with how our prototyping project is coming along. All I can say at this point is: Yes, it will have to do with mobile. :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

eTouch helps young people discuss touchy subjects

A new wireless, touch screen program has been piloted at National Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Researchers say that when young people answer questions using the device, risk of injury, depression and drug and alcohol use were more often identified by teens, thus opening the door for practitioners to discuss sensitive topics.

The system was more successful at identifying risky behaviors than were time-strapped doctors. Although neither report that I read (Columbus Dispatch or AMNews) talked about using the system for identify STD/HIV or sexual health risk taking specifically, it appears perfectly suited.

As long as privacy for young people can be assured as they are using the tool, and that doctors have alone time with their teen patients, the tool could definitely help open some doors for discussion. Family and peer support around sexual health are crucial to young people's decision making abilities, but there are growing technology trends (texting!) that encourage young people to take more control and get what they need in intimidating clinical settings.

Another Tech Mash-up for a Good Cause

What happens when you put the following groups in a (hypothetical) bag and shake it up real good?

The Partners:

MTV's Staying Alive Foundation is a multimedia HIV and AIDS prevention campaign and is itself a partnership between MTV Networks International, Family Health International, the Kaiser Family Foundation, UNAIDS, UNFPA.

Facebook Causes lets Facebook users show there support for causes and non-profits they care about by joining there pages and facilitating donations.

SpinVox is a platform that converts your voice into text. The cool thing about it is that you call into their line and speak your message and SpinVox can then post a text version of your spoken message to your blog, send a text to all your friends or update your social networking profile. So our knobby overworked fingers can take a break.

What comes out of that bag after a good shake is StandByWhatYouSay.com.
Here is a little snippet from the press release:

MTV's Staying Alive Foundation, SpinVox and Causes on Facebook yesterday announced the launch of their joint campaign, 'Stand By What You Say'. The groundbreaking initiative encourages young people to speak openly about sex, sexual health and HIV/AIDS, with a view to increasing awareness and breaking down the stigma and discrimination which so often accompanies the disease.

The campaign uses SpinVox to convert the voice messages that people leave in to text. Those that speak up are then asked to bolster their support by pledging money to the Staying Alive Foundation, MTV's HIV and AIDS charity which allocates grants to youth-led organisations who work to raise awareness on a local, grass-roots level. SpinVox itself will be 'standing by what it says' to match funds raised to the value of $50,000.

Callers are greeted by 2008 Staying Alive Foundation Ambassador Kelly Rowland, who prompts them to leave a message at 513-729-6417. The voice messages are converted to text and posted on a bespoke Staying Alive Blog http://www.standbywhatyousay.com by SpinVox. Topics such as 'sex secrets,' 'one night stands' and 'condoms' will act as conversation starters and encourage debate among global youth audience. Different themes and questions will be posed throughout the campaign to keep the contributions

I think that anything that helps people speak positively about sex and their sexual health is a good thing.
And this is a really interesting tech twist. I don't know yet if speaking your message and then having it
converted to text is really better/different than typing. But I will keep watching and seeing what kinds of
messages come rolling in.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Arse Electronika

There are some moments that I love living in the bay area. Well, I love being in bay area all the time but there are some moments when this love is intensified. One of said moments was when I read about Arse Electronika 2008 Do Androids Sleep with Electric Sheep?
Critical Perspectives on Sexuality and Pornography in Science and Social Fiction.

First my little nerdy heart just about jumped out of my chest with the Philip K. Dick reference, and then I read what they said about last years conference and I was sold.
"From the depiction of a vulva in a cave painting to the newest internet porno, technology and sexuality have always been closely linked. No one can predict what the future will bring, but history indicates that sex will continue to play an essential role in technological development."

I don't know where you'll be Sept 25-28th but I for one am crossing my fingers that I will be at Cellspace attending Arse Electronika!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance data for 2007 is available

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, YRBS for short, has been conducted every 2 years since 1991 and aims to describe the health related behaviors of high school students in the United States. This year for the first time some trend analysis is allowing us to see changes in risk behavior for three racial groups, African Americans, Hispanic or latinos and whites.

The study found decreases in key sexual risk behaviors among several groups:
  • Decreases occurred overall in the percentage of black students who has ever had sexual intercourse (66 percent in 2007; 82 percent in 1991); and who had sex with four or more people during their lifetime (28 percent in 2007; 43 percent in 1991.)
  • Decreases occurred in the percentage of white students who had ever had sexual intercourse - 44 percent in 2007; 50 percent in 1991; and who had had sex with four or more people in their lifetime - 12 percent in 2007; 15 percent in 1991.
Additionally, Latino students reported less exposure to comprehensive sex education that included information about HIV and AIDS, and also had lower rates of condom use than other groups. The telebriefing explains some of why this might be and makes for interesting reading.

You can read a transcript of the telebriefing from June 4th, and also check out fact sheets, methodology, comprehensive results, etc. And here is the press release for the boiled down version.

These data are an invaluable resource for anyone working on improving the health status of youth in this country.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Learned all I Know About Sex on YouTube

I found these two STD info videos on Youtube. I was struck by the difference in styles and as a result the difference in the quality of interaction. There seems to be an interesting lesson in a comparison of these two approaches.

While checking these out I was reminded that before I got my wisdom teeth pulled I looked the procedure up on youtube (this is a hilarious activity, I highly recommend it as a perfect time killer.) I was a little nervous about going under and went to youtube to have people tell me that it was going to be ok, for a community of sorts. I wanted to see people not unlike myself go through this procedure, come out unscathed and tell me a funny story about it. I have to believe that others are thinking along similar lines and go to Youtube (and every hub of UGC) as a link to a collective semi-anonymous friend. I had already seen the official medical videos about tooth extraction and went to youtube to hear from a friend. If you look in the comments of the first video there seems to be a friendly back and forth banter. It reminds me of people weighing out the value of some old folk wisdom. People are engaged with the information in a way that is not apparent in the second. Maybe the lesson for public health is that people are looking for friends to share info. and not always someone official behind a desk.