Friday, 11 December 2009

All the little birds go tweet, tweet, tweet

Although I've been using the internet since 1995, I'm really not into social networking. Perhaps because I'm basically anti-social? I've never been good at old-fashioned chatting, let alone chatting on the internet. I've on occasion set up both Yahoo Messenger and Facebook accounts, but shut them down within minutes. And tweeting? They're all just not me!

But there's no doubt that Indonesians are really into these forms of social networking. It seems that almost everyone now has a Blackberry. A recent report on the Kompas Daily web site (Penetrasi Internet di Indonesia Naik Dua Kali Lipat) says that 17% of Indonesians are accessing the internet, with a rise of 700% in numbers of Facebook users and 3,700% in Twitter users over the last year. And it notes that most of the users are in the 15-39 year age range.

So what? Well, that age range is clearly that most affected by HIV. But many of those involved with AIDS planning are a bit (or in some cases, more than a bit!) older than that, and probably feel less than comfortable with these new developments.

Some examples: the Spiritia web site hot line received 109 anonymous questions last month. Since we started it in May last year, the Spiritia web site forum has attracted 427 members, who have posted close to 7000 messages. I guess Spiritia staff respond to an average of 3 SMS questions every day. And Spiritia is clearly not alone. An increasing number of NGOs are employing cyber-outreach, particularly for difficult-to-reach gays. Yet it sometimes seems that few program managers are aware of all this activity.

There is an increasing literature regarding AIDS outreach via SMS in Africa. Of course, internet coverage in Africa is currently much lower than in Indonesia. I would suspect there is a great opportunity for develop some cutting-edge ideas using these new tools. Perhaps it's time I re-established my Facebook page...


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