A) Bangladesh is one of the few countries to make fast progress in terms of reducing maternal mortality rate, 3.3 percent average decline per year compared to required annual reduction rate of 3.00 percent for achieving MDG 5 by this year. This is a big achievement but we need to do more. And there are few things we need to fix to achieve more: barrier to access to information and lack of knowledge and education.
B) Access to health care is not readily available in many parts of the country. As a result, delivering services to those areas is difficult and almost impossible at times. But this does not reduce the importance of delivering services to those areas.
On the other hand, mobile phone penetration rate is high in almost all areas of Bangladesh compared to many other countries in Asia and Africa. According to a recent survey, of every 100 people 64 have access to mobile phones. In recent years, we have observed a soaring rise of mobile banking services opening up opportunities for unbanked population with mobile phones. This offers an opportunity to take a more confirmed approach to solving health care problem. To harness this new opportunity offered by mobile technology to deliver health care services, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) decided to launch its program in Bangladesh. That’s how Aponjon, a mhealth service, came to exist.
“Aponjon” is a mobile phone based mhealth service for expecting and new mothers in Bangladesh. What Aponjon does is pretty exciting and effective: it takes advantage of new technology and delivers health care services to new and expectant mother in the form of text and voice messages through mobile phones. The service is now available through Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi, Airtel and Citycell.
Dnet, a local social enterprise launched the service in Bangladesh in partnership with Bangladesh Government. Aponjon started as a pilot in 2011. Dnet conducted a one year pilot testing in 13 locations of four districts in Bangladesh with about 1500 subscribers. After successful piloting, the service was finally launched in December 2012. Dnet has partnered with six outreach organizations, five mobile network operators, and three large corporate partners to deliver the service to all 64 districts.
“Aponjon” is a mobile phone based mhealth service for expecting and new mothers in Bangladesh. What Aponjon does is pretty exciting and effective: it takes advantage of new technology and delivers health care services to new and expectant mother in the form of text and voice messages through mobile phones.
How It Woks
Aponjon takes a holistic approach to service delivery. It provides information for expecting mothers twice in a week, for 37 weeks of pregnancy. You can choose either text or voice message. The voice messages are a mix of “mini-skit” messages, with local actors playing the roles of a doctor, pregnant woman, mother and mother-in-law. An expecting mothers start receiving message from 6th week of pregnancy and continues till to 42 weeks of pregnancy or till the baby is born. One can unsubscribe any time.
A new mother also receives 2 health messages a day for 52 weeks related to mother health and baby health.
In addition, one family member can get 1 health-message (voice or SMS) per week along with the expecting mother/new mother. This makes the service more effective and increase the chance of proper use of the service.
Along with above mentioned services, a subscribed member also gets access to Aponjon Counseling Line, where one can get medical advice and counseling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. Aponjon platform is also home for a wide range of services related to maternity. It hosts an online mother forum, offers few calculators and calendars and more. Moreover, Aponjon works hard to make the service customized and contextual to the local and regional demands.
Growth and business model
As of today, Aponjon has 13,57,641 subscribers and it is growing fast. Aponjon also launched a mobile app recently. The Aponjon app for expecting mothers provides weekly information about baby and mother. Helps calculating expecting date, give reminder on what to do and when and also suggests about food and safe medicine.
For now, it charges BDT 2 for per SMS excluding VAT. Over the time, it aims to earn revenue from advertising, a very tested revenue stream for similar services.
To avail the service one needs to register by dialing 16227 and then follow IVR menu or you can also subscribe by talking to a customer service agent. You can also register through SMS using prescribed codes.
Aponjon app for expecting mothers is now available on all platforms. You can download android, iOS, or Windows version of the app for free.