Can Apps Make Air Pollution Visible? User Engagement with Air Quality Information
63 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2019
Date Written: March 15, 2019
Air pollution is one of the largest environmental health risks globally but is often imperceptible by people. Air quality smartphone applications (commonly called apps) provide real-time localized air quality information and have the potential to help people learn about the health effects of air pollution and take action to protect their health. Hundreds of air quality apps are now available, however, there is scant information on how effective these mobile apps are at educating stakeholders about air pollution and at promoting behavioral change to protect their health. In this paper, we test how intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can enhance users’ engagement with air quality information and favor changes in protective behavior. We developed an air quality app, AirForU, with a built-in research study that was downloaded by 2,740 users. We found that user engagement, measured as checking the app, and talking to someone about air pollution, was strong in the first few weeks after downloading the app but faded significantly after 12 weeks. Engagement was higher for users with intrinsic motivations, such as those who are health conscious, either because they are suffering from heart disease or other conditions aggravated by air pollution, or because they exercise often and want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Extrinsic motivations such as notifications were also effective. App users stated that they shared air quality frequently with others while using the app, learned information about the Air Quality Index (AQI), and took measures to protect their health. Based on these findings, we provide recommendations to improve the effectiveness of air quality apps.
Keywords: air pollution, information strategies, mobile applications, information technologies, sustainability, health protection, behavior change
JEL Classification: Q01, Q28, Q58, D83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation