June 6, 2013
STD advice by SMS in Uganda spurred infidelity instead
Google Inc. and the Grameen Foundation set out to improve awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and reduce risky behavior in rural Uganda through text messaging. Instead, the program spurred infidelity. Newsday reports.
Participants in the project texted questions on sexual health topics to a service set up by Google, Grameen and the local mobile-phone provider. Using its search technology, Google worked with Grameen to develop a way to pick up key words in the texts and reply with templated answers. Infidelity jumped to 27 percent from 12 percent of those involved in the project, one of the findings of a soon-to-be published Google-funded study by Innovations for Poverty Action, a non-profit organization.
The unexpected result exposes kinks in the growing field of mobile health, which is bringing together technology companies, wireless carriers, drugmakers and non-profit organizations to explore applications ranging from diagnostics to disease tracking.
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