In a society where health-service delivery is nothing to write home about, an innovation that seeks to beef up the delivery of health services is worth celebrating. This week, we drop our spotlight on bisa. Bisa lends a helping hand to the problems we face in our hospitals. You can call it a virtual consulting room. It is best suited for people with complicated medical conditions or basically Sexually Transmitted Infections which usually attract judgmental stares and gossips in the society. Such people can evade stigmatization by using this platform to have a direct chat with a doctor, while remaining anonymous. Though a great platform to receive some tips from qualified doctors, users are cautioned not to substitute it for conventional medical treatment.
We spoke to Raindolf Owusu, the founder of Oasis Websoft: the software developing company that built bisa. Raindolf Owusu is a software developer who believes he can solve some of Africa’s problems with technology. He started Oasis websoft in 2011 initially as a way to learn more about technology and also as a platform to put out some of his projects. He later registered it as a business in 2012 to build commercial software solutions. Bisa was successfully completed because of the immense contributions of Dr. Dennis Addo and Dr. William Menson.
Below are excerpts of the interview
Tell us about the bisa app and what compelled you to develop it?
Raindolf Owusu: Bisa is a mobile application that makes valuable health guidelines, information and tips for managing your health readily available to the public. Users can interact directly with medical practitioners without having physical contact; an advantage to those who have health concerns they are shy to talk to a doctor face-to-face about.We have worked on a few health solutions like Ebola Ghana Alert and Dr Diabetes. My belief is that technology is the backbone but it cannot stand out on its own. It has to be integrated into other areas like the health, education etc.
Have you partnered with the government (or any government institution)?
Raindolf Owusu: No. For a growing company we deem it best to stay away from government institutions. We do not want to be tagged as another politically motivated company. So currently we are financing Bisa from our own pockets and we have two dedicated doctors namely Dr Dennis Addo and Dr William Menson who have volunteered to answer all the queries from the platform.
How successful has the bisa app been since it was launched?
Raindolf Owusu: Bisa has had over 300 downloads since we launched in February and also the doctors have answered close to 150 queries. Due to our doctor-patient confidentiality policy, I’m not allowed to discuss what goes on on the platform but the doctors receive words of appreciation after they have offered their services. We are working on a voice-call feature where people will be able to call a doctor directly from the app. We need more doctors on board and if possible funds to reward their input on the platform.
How challenging is it to be a CEO and a developer at the same time?
Raindolf Owusu: The core of our business is technology so I make sure I’m always up to date with the trends of technology. It’s very difficult but I have a team of four who help me manage the stress. I like to consider myself more of a founder because i have a focus on where to take the company. It’s very difficult but then you always know how to prioritize when to bring business in and when to write a good code.
Do you honestly think every developer should go into entrepreneurship?
Raindolf Owusu: Not everyone is born a leader. Most people are at their very best as team members rather than team leaders. You should identify your traits early on if you can lead a team from an idea stage to a development stage or you work best as a team player. Our case in Africa is unique because developers are being paid lesser than they deserve in companies, so they are forced into entrepreneurship to make money. Developers should work as a team if they want to make impact or create wealth.
What one characteristic do you think is needed to be a successful mobile app developer?
Raindolf Owusu:I believe one has to be technically inclined to be a good developer. You should know how to develop a mobile application. You should be good in Java if you want to develop for Android or Objective-C if you want to develop for iOS.
Congratulations on your Mandela Washington Fellowship. What does the fellowship entail?
Raindolf Owusu: Thanks so much and it’s a win for all developers out there – you can build locally and be recognized globally.
What it entails is I will be going to the United States to study for six weeks and also fly to washington for a one week summit where I will meet industry players , leaders and also get the chance to meet President Barack Obama. I will get access to funding as well and network with the other African fellows.
Do u have any plans of training young aspiring tech-entrepreneurs??
Raindolf Owusu: Yes we have – at Oasis . It is something we are still working on , it will be a very intensive training program that will give the youth employable programming skills. It is currently in the research and development phase so I do not want to give out details until we are ready to launch it.
In the next 5 years, how will the bisa app evolve?
Raindolf Owusu: Yes the first phase of Bisa is just medical advice , very soon we will roll out Bisa Love where people will get relationship advice and will soon roll out Bisa consult where people will get business advice. Bisa’s future will rely on getting people up to date information on health. Doctors should be closer to us – this is where Bisa comes in.