Members of the Harvard community will have everything they need to know about the University in the palms of their hands. Harvard has launched a strategic mobile initiative to package content from across the University for display on handheld devices.
The first products in this mobile initiative, a native iPhone application and a mobile web application accessible by browser on any smartphone device or feature phone, are now available. Both provide easy access to campus maps, directories, and dining hall menus, as well as University news, events, and course catalogs. The University will continue to develop and improve these applications, and expand the initiative by bringing in more content.
“Mobile technology represents a profound evolution in the way people connect to information, services, culture, and community,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “Increasingly, students, faculty, and staff members carry the Internet in their pockets and purses. This unified Harvard mobile experience allows individuals within and beyond our community to access the information they need to know anywhere, anytime.”
These mobile assets have been developed as part of an open-source project called iMobileU, which will enable the standard practice of providing code back to the community and will allow other universities and organizations to benefit from it and contribute in turn.
“Choosing an open-source solution positions Harvard to be agile in the rapidly changing mobile technology arena and to leverage the collective power of the Internet community,” said Paul Bergen, director of iCommons in the Office of the University CIO.
“This approach also allows Harvard to give back to other universities and organizations, and positions Harvard to move forward with a flexible and scalable approach,” Bergen said.
A collaborative effort among Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, Office of the University CIO, and Harvard Alumni Affairs and Development, the initiative is a response to the rapid worldwide shift toward a “mobile-first” culture of information consumption. This year, the use of non-voice data applications on cell phones has grown dramatically, and Harvard recognizes the need to serve relevant, optimized content to students, staff, faculty, alumni, and visitors.
“This mobile initiative is consistent with the University’s communications strategy of delivering ‘content in context,’ and meeting our users where they are,” said Perry Hewitt, Harvard’s director of Digital Communications and Communications Services.
According to a report last spring by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, the number of people using mobile devices to access the Internet rose 52 percent last year. While this kind of use has long been on the rise among young adults, it also has gained popularity with people 30 to 49. According to the study, 43 percent of people in that age bracket used a mobile device to access the Internet last year, a 39 percent increase from the year before.
The Harvard iPhone app can be used with the iPhone 4, 3GS and 3G hardware, but users must download the free iOS 4 software update. The mobile web application is available at m.harvard.edu.