By Joseph B.A. Marzan
The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM)-Region 6 on Friday launched an updated version of its AHlam Na! mobile application, to push efforts to reduce adolescent and repeated pregnancies.
The AHlam Na! 2.0 app has an improved interface and introduces new games such as Fill In the Blanks and Guess the Word, on top of its original Fact or Bluff game, which also sees new improvements including additional unlocking game levels and menus, as well as the conversion of game points to redeem prepaid mobile load cards.
The update also introduces the game’s avatar, MAHLA, who provides conversation and educational inputs on adolescent health, and newer topics including nutrition, mental health, immunization, referral services, and a directory of service providers.
POPCOM-6 realized that an update to its 2018 mobile application was imminent due to the rise in the use of gadgets, especially amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
They cited the results of the 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey, which indicated that 39 percent of males and 44 percent of females aged between 15 to 24 years old had no material sources of information about sex, while 31 percent of males and 26 percent of females from the same age group cited social media as their source.
The agency likewise conducted a Focus Group Discussion on the mobile application with youth representatives from Cabatuan town, who provided feedback as to how the app can be more engaging.
Like its predecessor, the new app was tested during a session at the Iloilo National High School in Iloilo City last September.
During the launch in the city on Thursday, POPCOM-6 chief Harold Alfred Marshall admitted that young adults still have a choice as to where they get information but hoped that the application could help in providing more options to choose from.
“What we are doing here is simply providing adolescents with correct, proper, relevant, [and] timely information. It’s still a matter of choice. No matter how many apps we develop, if they will not utilize [the app] and make use of the information, it’s still pointless,” said Marshall.
“For us in the government, even without the app, we are always advocating for responsible adolescent sexuality. That is as far as we can go because we do not impose on adolescents. If they take it too hard, well and good, but if they don’t, then we will just have to try other ways of convincing them to be sexually responsible,” he added.
To promote the app, Roilo Vincent Laguna, head of the agency’s Technical Services Division, stated that they will be closely collaborating with local government units on popularization activities, especially for out-of-school youths.
In addition, they will closely tie up with the Department of Education-Region 6 to also promote the application to school-aged adolescents.
The app was developed in partnership with the Iloilo State College of Fisheries, and the Department of Health-Western Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH-WV CHD).
It is currently available on Google Play for compatible Android devices and is set to be launched for Apple’s iOS for iPhones in 2023.