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USDA’s Ask Karen

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Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info. This entry is a story shared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture._ _ _

Mobile ‘Ask Karen’ is an extension of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s 24/7 virtual representative Ask Karen. Ask Karen is a web knowledge base, populated with answers to questions pertaining to food safety. Ask Karen provides answers to consumers via an automated response system.

Why We Did It

Reaching out to consumers via web sites is no longer enough. Social media proves to us that people are mobile and they are staying in touch while they are going about their daily business. So deploying mobile Ask Karen seemed like the next logical step in providing assistance and tips on preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling, storage, and safe preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.

Mobile ‘Ask Karen’ is another step in allowing consumers to have information when they need it. Ask Karen is able to go to ‘with’ consumers to the grocery store, the farmers market, and be with you in your kitchen and at your BBQ.

What We Did

The mobile ‘Ask Karen’ was adapted from the web site’s FAQ database by the same customer experience management company which developed the original database.

How It Worked

Just like using ‘Ask Karen’ from your desktop or laptop computer, consumers with iOS and Android mobile devices can

  • search by topic or products,
  • send an email,
  • use the chat feature

FSIS also provides the number for the Meat and Poultry Hotline via ‘Ask Karen.’

What We Learned

If you have an idea for developing a mobile app, don’t wait. Go ahead and get started because the mobile landscape is evolving so quickly.

What’s Next?

We plan to review the information we provide and evaluate whether the most read/downloaded information is appropriate for repurposing in a mobile format. We’ve begun to think of any communication we might publish as multi-purposed. Is it printable, web page ready and able to be easily used by mobile devices?

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