A virtual elder sister

Muhammad Ibrahim Ibne Towhid writes about the services through which the ‘Maya Apa’ app has uniquely helped over 1.4 lakh users since 2009 till date

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Keeping in pace with the changing mode of digitisation and use of advanced technologies, the service sector of the country is rapidly going online and opening its 24/7 care centres. All the initiatives are looking forward to establish a direct real time link with end to end communication, thus cutting out the involvement of middle-men.

Recently the medical sector has also made similar progress in terms of giving services to patients who are geographically distant from the healthcare professionals. One such initiative is ‘Maya Apa’.

‘Maya Apa’ is a Bangladesh based technology company, trading as Mayalogy Ltd. Back in 2014, Maya Apa partnered with the NGO BRAC, and through its gender justice and diversity department wanted to further develop the platform and reach more users in need. Since then Maya Apa has resolved over 1.4 lakh users’ queries. The consultancy service provider also launched the Android app in February 2015, while the knowledge sharing or messaging platform is equally available on Web and WAP.

Visiting a doctor for treatment of disease is one thing, while advocacy and consultancy is another. There are many health-related problems that people face every day and these problems can be easily resolved with just a little advice from an expert of the specific field.

According to its developers, Maya has been committed to reinventing the way people in developing countries access expert advice and share knowledge. By eliminating the social, financial and geographic barriers to accessing expert advice on health, psychosocial and legal issues; Maya Apa aims to be everyone’s personal digital wellbeing assistant.

So far ‘Maya Apa’ claims to have re-invented the way people in developing countries access vetted expert advice. It currently services more than 500 questions a day, encompassing a wide range of topics, primarily related to public health, psycho-social and legal. The service boasts of a month over month (MoM) growth rate of more than 10 per cent.
The Maya Apa blog called ‘Maya’ was initiated in 2009 by its founder Ivy Huq Russell, before launching its current intelligent platform on different mediums.

Russel, who is also the CEO of Maya, shares with New Age Xtra that she first started Maya in 2009, soon after she had her first child. She says, ‘It was at first a blog to start gathering, creating and sharing female-oriented content in Bangladesh. I found a massive gap between the information and knowledge women needed in a country like Bangladesh, and how they could access it. The goal then was to provide high quality, locally relevant content to women, mostly mothers.’

‘Our site was very bare bones, and on a whim, I added a very basic comments box on the homepage with the call to action, “ask Maya Apa anything”. We started getting some queries every day, and this eventually led to us responding to 15-30 questions a day. I was routing these question to my friends who had relevant expertise. We realised quickly that this was the “killer feature” and in 2014, Maya pivoted to focus primarily on the “Maya Apa” service,’ she adds.

Maya is easy-to-use and very user friendly. Anybody, be a male or a female, can ask any questions in the platform.

There is no barrier to the use of language by a user. One can ask questions in English, Bengali and even mixing the two languages. The emphasis is given so that a person can share the problem in the easiest way by conveying the proper message.

Apart from just sending a text, one can even send voice or upload an audio file. These questions are then routed to a vetted network of experts (doctors, therapists etc.) through a real-time backend. The algorithm of the programme is built as such that it automatically filters the message and sends to the relevant designation.

So if you face any problems and you want to share it with Maya, you can find the android app in google play store or you can also find details at https://www.maya.com.bd/#/about. The website has both the English and Bengali versions.