February 12, 2015 by Anushka Zafar
By 2016, 80 per cent of mobile phones will be internet-enabled. What does this mean for Bangladesh, where mobile phone operators only began providing 3G internet services in 2013?
For Ivy Huq Russell, it means one thing: it would be the perfect opportunity to bring a free-flow of information to every woman in the country. Ivy is the founder of Maya, a web-based platform allowing women to anonymously ask pertinent questions on legal, health and psychosocial issues. Questions are then answered by experts within 48 hours. Ivy believes the way women in Bangladesh gain access to information is inherently broken. But with the internet, many of these barriers are removed, allowing women to ask questions without fear of judgement.
Since its launch in 2011, the Maya website has seen over 1 million visitors. Mainly urban-based, women who visit the site frequently return to get information on topics like pregnancy, domestic violence, or even recipes.
Due to the website’s success, Ivy realised she wanted to do more to increase Maya’s reach. That was when she approached BRAC, proposing to launch a Maya app for smartphones. “Three years ago, when I began pitching the app to different organisations, they didn’t seem to understand,” said Ivy. Internet-enabled phones were less common then, and whoever Ivy approached seemed to underestimate the app’s reach and overall effectiveness. “BRAC was the only organisation that understood my vision. They also believed we could harness the power of mobile internet to provide information and reach more women in Bangladesh.”
Launched on 3 February 2015, the Maya app is now the first of its kind in Bangladesh. Furthermore the android-based app was made a reality by women engineers, doctors and entrepreneurs, setting yet another milestone for women in Bangladesh.
Update: The Maya app was launched in partnership with BRAC’s gender justice and diversity programme. Read more about the partnership here.
Anushka Zafar is senior communications officer at BRAC Communications.