Durban-based digital mobile and mapping company Always Active Technologies (AAT) has teamed up with HIV-911 to take its database of health and welfare providers to the masses through mobile technology.

“HIV-911 needed to ’mobilize’ their provider data to make it accessible to anyone with access to a cell phone. Challenges included a lack of internet enabled cell phones and the prevalence of feature phones in their market. So they needed a platform that was network and device agnostic,” says AAT business development manager Alan Haarhoff.

He says USSD was the mobile channel of choice as it works on all networks and virtually all handsets. “Although USSD is considered old technology its simplicity should not mask its power as a mobile channel. Banks make great use of it to increase their reach in mobile banking.”

The mobile service can be accessed by dialling *120*448#.

The service allows users to search for providers nearest to them and rate providers they have visited. The USSD menu also includes multiple language support as an understanding of the market it is developed for.

The user dials the USSD number and indicates which type of provider he is seeking – for example: Hospice, rape counselling, HIV testing etc.

The USSD session is then ended, and a LBS (Location Based Service) look-up is conducted to get the users approximate position. With the returned co-ordinates, matches are searched for against the HIV-911 database of geo-coded Providers.

When matches are found, the user is sent an SMS with the names and contact details of the nearest providers to their current location.

“The mobile mix of USSD, SMS and LBS solve the problem of providing data to communities that do not have desktop or mobile internet access,” says Haarhoff.

HIV-911 is a referral network that specialises in the collection and collations of information related to health and welfare service providers across South Africa, and in partnership with AAT have taken their data mobile.

With more than 17 000 service providers listed on the HIV-911 database, its coverage of HIV-related activities and services in South Africa makes it a comprehensive resource for people seeking help or networking opportunities in all regions of the country.