Category Archive: Mobile Media

  1. Final Project: PROS Network Services Finder App for Android and Mobile Web

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    PROS Network Services Finder is a mobile website / Android application that provides a listing of harm reduction services for sex workers in New York City based on GPS location information. The current services listings are organized under the following categories: harm reduction and syringe exchanges, shelters, legal services, youth services, advocacy and support services. In the next version, the application will include a two-way “bad date list” feature as well as the ability to report instances of violence with a focus on combating police violence.

    Problem Statement

    Sex workers face a number of barriers when accessing services such as mental health care, social services, STI and HIV screenings. The barriers to access of services are exacerbated by pervasive cultural stigma, legal obstacles, poverty, education, and other factors. In Recent years, mobile technology adoption rates have soared in much of the global south. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS prevalence is highest in these countries. As such, it seems quite a natural progression for those combating the stigma and the virus (through prevention and care) to utilize mobile technology to increase information access and education.

    The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has created an extremely difficult climate for NGOs and NPOs who work with sex worker populations to maintain adequate access to funding in their programs due to the require of the Anti-Prostitution Pledge, essentially silencing them by putting restraints on organizations by requiring them to sign an anti-prostitution pledge regardless of whether prostitution is legal, decriminalized, or illegal by their own local laws. These grassroots agencies and organizations are most equipped to identify victims of trafficking as well as to penetrate this difficult to reach population and provide services. PEPFAR’s policy further discriminates against sex workers. For example, Andrew Hunter of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers noted that doctors are not allowed to answer questions regarding what sex health concerns are medically valid around MSM (men having sex with men) sex work. Denial of services and education are not effective HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment policy, plain and simple.

    Project Statement
    I intend to continue learning about efforts to use SMS and mobile technology as a means for disseminating information around HIV/AIDS in the global south. I will continue to look at existing programs and policies that are working to make change, it seems, outside of PEPFAR funding. I would like to continue this work, examing what has been effective and through my research and prototyping, make recommendations and continue developing technology on this subject to increase HIV/AIDS prevention and services access to marginalized populations, including by not limited to sex workers, primarily in the global south. I would like to test a pilot program in New York City in conjunction with the Bureau of AIDS and the PROS Network (a coalition of service providers and others providing harm reduction services here in New York City.)

    Project Scope
    Phase One – Midterm

    • Utilize SMS to digitize a bad date list with (password protected) access

    Phase Two – Final Project

    • Use geo-tagging and GPS to find the closest health services available to sex workers including reproductive health, STI screening, HIV services, and harm reduction services including safer sex supplies and injection supplies.

    Phase Three

    • Create a tool for organizing for court support, events, and actions– both immediate events and longer term planning
    • Create native app for Android and iPhone

    Related Projects

    • Text to Change: Text to Change (TTC), a non-profit organization in Africa, has been using mobile technology for health education since 2008. TTC has been running a fun, innovative and practical HIV/AIDS education program in three countries — Uganda, Kenya and Namibia. This program not only educates participants about AIDS but also encourages infected patients to seek medical help and adhere to medication.
    • How SMS Could Save Your Life (Wired Magazine): GUGULETHU, South Africa — How do you make the expertise of two doctors and two nurses spread far and wide enough to take care of more than 500 HIV/AIDS patients? In this gritty township, the answer is text messaging.
    • Tactical Technology Collective (TTC) – I put out a call for information to harm reduction and sex worker contacts. I received a report back from the Open Society Institute‚Äôs Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) which was commissioned in preparation for a 2007 meeting of sex worker activists. It was written by Melissa Gira and Tactical Technology Collective (TTC) and looks at how sex workers groups are using technology in their work.
      Synopsis: I intend to study how SMS and mobile technology is working in the field of HIV prevention in sex worker populations.
    • The Aphrodite Project – Sexy GPS Shoes – a project that involved ITP students a few years ago.
    • Successful Launch TTC/AIC HIV SMS Quiz Program In Mbarara, Uganda
    • UGANDA: Using mobile phones to fight HIV
      Text to Change (TTC) , an NGO that uses a bulk short message service (SMS) platform for HIV/AIDS education, recently partnered with the AIDS Information Centre in Uganda (AIC) and Celtel, a local mobile phone network, to pilot a project in western Uganda aimed at communicating knowledge about the disease and encouraging subscribers to volunteer for HIV testing.
    • WHO’s HIV/AIDS sex work toolkit
      In many parts of the world, sex workers have been among the groups most vulnerable to and most affected by HIV since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic.
    • Sex Workers and HIV Prevention – Prevention campaigns aimed at sex workers not only reduce the number of HIV infections that result from paid sex; they can also play a vital role in restricting the overall spread of HIV in a country. Proof of this can be seen in countries such as Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic and Thailand, where general reductions in the national HIV prevalence have been largely attributed to HIV prevention initiatives aimed at sex workers and their clients.
    • Ecuador Sex Workers Target HIV-AIDS Prevention – Sex workers in Ecuador are building a national labor network and trying to curb HIV-AIDS, while dealing with the growing presence of minors and undocumented workers in brothels. The first of six stories on Ecuador’s sex industry.
  2. SMS Resources for Sex Workers in New York City

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    Mobile Media Midterm Synopsis

    For the midterm project, Matt Swenson and Sarah Jenny created an SMS-based resource for those in the sex trade (including those who engage in sex work by choice or circumstance as well as those who are in the sex trade under coercive circumstances such as trafficking). Users the phrase “nyhelp” and their New York City zipcode to 41411 and receive the contact information for the closest social service provider. (Example: 41411 nyhelp 10003) The resource list was carefully crafted after consulting the PROS Network, a coalition of social service providers offering services to sex workers and other marginalized populations from a harm reduction and human rights perspective.

    Matt and Sarah researched existing mobile services for sex workers, including the SOROS Foundation’s Open Society Institute collaboration with Tactical Technology Collective. This research informed their work in terms of functionality, usability and the content provided.

  3. Midterm Project Idea

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    I have been thinking about my midterm project for Mobile Media and have

    • Continue working on the Bad Date List project. Incorporate GPS capabilities so users can text in to find resources such as health and social services, and harm reduction facilities for condoms and needle exchange. Collaborate with Matt Swenson to centralize resources for victims of labor trafficking based on geo-location.
    • Develop a tool for real time citizen journalism and propose a collaboration with NYC IndyMedia. News would be sent in via mobile devices and could include audio, video, or photos. The data would be displayed in short form feed, similar to Twitter. Users would peer moderate the content by voting it up or down. The feed would be visible on a website.
    • Develop an event reminder tool where you can sign up for a reminder text and/or RSVP.
    • Develop a “live photo stream” for events where attendees can upload photos from the events in real time to be displayed in microblog/photoblog format.

    The last idea I planned out a bit and you can view below. Click the image to enlarge.

  4. Prototype for an SMS-based Bad Date List

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    Bad Date Lists have been around for a long time. These lists, which typically manifest as handwritten or printouts of information about bad dates (explained in a moment) gathered by outreach workers as well as sex workers, have been the primary form of distributing the data. In recent years, password-protected website forums and email listservs have also served to disseminate information. In terms of sex work, a bad date refers to a client or law officer (who may also be a client) who has wronged the sex worker in some way. The most common reasons for ending up on a bad date list include refusal to pay, haggling, aggression, stalking, physical or verbal assault, threats, and/or sexual assault or rape.

    This information can become out of date quite fast and is limited to geographic areas for print outs and to workers with access to the internet. The reality is, clients travel and so do workers. The idea has been around for a while to create an SMS based-bad date list. There are a number of factors that go along with this new technology:

    • How should subscribers be screened?
    • How can the data be kept out of the wrong hands?
    • How can the data be kept private and safe?
    • How can users and developers avoid legal complications form using the service?
    • How can the BDL (bad date list) in an SMS-format be developed on a technical level?

    As a harm reductionist, community organizer, and technologist, I decided to take on this challenge. Initially I was planning on developing a system for students who receive packages at my graduate program to be pinged by SMS to notify them when a package arrives. However, I decided to give the SMS BDL a try instead for my Mobile Me(dia) class.

    Thus far, I’ve been able to receive SMSes and have them written into a PHP MySQL database and furthermore, displayed on a website. The phone number of the person who texts in the information will be omitted but the information they provide will be displayed. I am still figuring out how to add a time/date stamp and how to send data back to subscribers based on keywords such as zipcodes for geographic location.

    My prototyping page can be found here.

  5. SMS Based Application Helpful for ITP

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    I think a useful application would allow Matt Berger and whomever else accepts packages in the front to ping students via SMS to let them know when a package has arrived. The student would have to reply to say whether or not they’ve picked up the package (using some sort of tag like Y or N) and if they haven’t within three days, it would automatically ping them again.