JAKARTA, July 17, 2007 (AFP) – When Singapore’s Dr Love invites you up to his hotel room, you don’t say no. And once you’re inside, he doesn’t disappoint.
The doctor’s got plans for educating close to the entire world about sex. The starting point is his laptop — and Indonesia.
Wei Siang Yu, nicknamed "Dr Love" for his flamboyant, non-conventional methods of sex education for Singaporeans, has now launched his innovative programme in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Indonesians can send anonymous questions about sex via mobile phone text messages. And an avatar called "Nova" — a virtual character with artificial intelligence — will then answer.
Some might get a personal response from one of the Indonesian doctors on the panel behind "Nova". But all the queries will be compiled and responded to on the "Love Airways" website, where anyone can log on and learn, he says.
"It’s a boarding pass — it’s like a journey," the enthusiastic Australian-trained doctor gushes, as he logs on to the site.
Backed by Fiesta, a major condom brand in Indonesia, the site also features a sex forum where users can ask each other questions.
"The best solution is not just to tell people what to do and not to do, but rather to create a big forum using multi-media… This way we get the real questions," says Dr Love.
"It’s about real content. It’s about sex education made by the people for the people."
With his buttonless white shirt, trademark square glasses, checked trousers and white shoes, the 37-year-old, who is something of a celebrity in Singapore, looks more DJ than doctor-turned-inventor.
"The world has been running sex education campaigns presuming that people will follow what the system wants — but we don’t actually know what is on the ground, qualitatively," he says.
Sex surveys, he complains, have sample sizes that are too small and answers that are unreliable.
"Talking about sex is pretty much taboo still in Asia," he says.
Indonesia already has mainstream relationship advice readily available in the media, as well as commercial public seminars offering advice on sexual health. But nothing packaged quite this slickly.
Giving people an opportunity to ask questions anonymously will help public health educators find out what communities really want to know, he says.
Dr Love is upbeat about the prospect of Indonesians getting involved, saying they are more relaxed about such things than their reputedly straitlaced Singaporean neighbours.
"The Singaporean threshold of good quality sex may not be the same as the threshold of good quality sex in Indonesia. I think the people here are more relaxed. They understand quality is very, very important," he says.
And is Dr Love fearful of ruffling feathers among Indonesia’s small band of radical Islamists? Not really.
"Number one, we are not aligned with any religion… We are not bringing foreign content to impose on the culture," he responds.
"I don’t drive the content, they will drive it themselves."
The Indonesian programme follows similar campaigns run for 10 days in both Holland and Singapore, though this one is rolling out indefinitely — and it is the first time a so-called AI avatar is being used.
"Imagine you have a computer system that gathers 20,000 questions and answers that come from Indonesia, answered by doctors… Later on in this AI system, the avatar will be able to answer your question or help you to pick questions and a relevant answer to your query," he says.
"You are going to educate your own avatar in your country, to represent you and answer your questions."
Besides the website, which is in English now but will soon be in Indonesian, the answers to more common questions will also be disseminated via the Love Airways magazine.
The glossy is already on the shelves in conservative Singapore, and is scheduled to debut here late this year.
The "adult wellness" magazine, backed by his company Meggpower, touches on everything from where to escape with your spouse for a romantic holiday to sexually transmitted diseases.
A late-night television advice show similar to one Dr Love hosted in Singapore is also in the pipeline for Indonesia.
The text message programme will be rolled out to Malaysia next, followed by India and China.
The campaign is "a revolution of the whole landscape of sex education where now you can ask a question in privacy — anytime, anywhere," he says.
"At the end of the day, it’s a whole total revamp of sexual health epidemiology in the world."