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OPay finally restructures business model; drops super app ambition

Izunna Okpala

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Earlier this week, news emerged that Opera-backed Nigerian fintech company, OPay reportedly shut down all of its Nigerian business activities following a letter from its international investors.

A report claims that all the startup verticals, including ride hailing, ORide and OTrike — still active in other states beyond Lagos; recently launched B2B and B2C eCommerce platforms, OMall and OTrade; logistics OExpress; and food delivery feature, OFood will be closed.

It added that all motorcycles initially redirected into logistics earlier in the year will be retrieved.

Conversely, based on an official statement from OPay, this bears only a few truths.

“We can confirm that some of our business units including the ride-hailing services, ORide, OCar, as well as our logistics service OExpress will be put on pause. This is largely due to the harsh business conditions which have affected many Nigerian companies, including ours, during this COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown, and government ban,” the statement reads.

It goes ahead to say verticals like OMall, OTrade, and other services remain unaffected.

Perhaps, this explains OPay’s comment that it will now focus on rendering only financial services.

While insisting that its main focus is fintech, OPay claims that its mobile money and digital payment services have been profitable so far. However, the statement further maintains that this restructuring has only a little influence on the startup’s profitability.

Consequently, it appears that OPay’s focus will continue to be on its payment platform to push mobile money, lending, and investment services while waiting for the new eCommerce platform to find its feet.

As we have noticed while chronicling the journey of the Chinese-backed startup since launch, the past six months have been a pretty rough ride: from Okada and Tricycle ban in its major market, Lagos to taking down OKash, its money lending feature from the mobile app on alleged violation of Google services. And recently, the closing down of some of its services while unavoidably laying off employees as a result.

Regardless, the startup maintains that it is hugely funded and has remained highly profitable.

It remains to be seen how OPay would fare in the coming months as it moves into its third year of servicing the Nigerian market.

General News

These telemedicine companies are transforming the way doctors will treat patients in the future.

Izunna Okpala

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Telemedicine exploded during the pandemic, after years of steadily gaining popularity. Companies are now capitalizing on this momentum to bring in the next wave of remote health, expanding beyond simple doctor consultations to a high-tech world of healthcare access without ever leaving the house.

Dr. John Batsis, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, remarked that the pandemic “actually promoted new techniques for remote monitoring, production, and development of devices.” “Wherever there is a customer need, there will be startups, equity, and businesses attempting to meet those requirements.”

Tyto Care, an on-demand medical exam company that aspires to duplicate in-person visits with home medical kits, is one company reconsidering televisits. Dedi Gilad, the company’s CEO and co-founder, came up with the idea eight years ago while his daughter was suffering from recurrent ear and throat infections.

Meanwhile, Sanford Health in the Midwest, the country’s largest rural health care organization, has adopted a similar strategy. Rather of adapting devices for remote usage, doctors taught patients how to record their results at home using the same tools they used during in-person appointments.

According to Sanford Health, “home monitoring kits” containing a fetal ultrasound monitor and a blood pressure cuff were distributed to patients with low-risk pregnancies, allowing women to use virtual care for nearly a third of their prenatal care appointments during the pandemic.

Other telemedicine startups, such as Kiira in Los Angeles, are focusing on increasing access to underprivileged areas. The company’s virtual care app, which links women to primary care providers, OB-GYNs, mental health experts, and more through phone, video, and chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week, aims to bridge the healthcare gap for women in college, particularly women of color.

Historically, black and brown people have faced numerous impediments to healthcare, including fees, access to care, and even access to clinicians of color. Students are frequently hesitant to enter because they do not see a provider who looks like them…. One of the things that has been absent for a long time is the ability to see someone who you can relate to and speak with a provider from the comfort of your own home.

Virtual visits can be conducted, prescriptions can be written, and lab tests can be ordered using the app. Kiira’s monthly fee is covered by colleges, so students don’t have to pay for it. It presently serves four universities and approximately 3,000 students, with ambitions to grow to 22,000 students later this year.

Spora Heath, another affordable telemedicine startup, focuses on offering a primary care network for African-Americans. The $10-per-month service compels its physicians, 90 percent of whom are persons of color, to complete “culture-competence training” and workshops in order to better understand and support the communities they serve.

These technologies are going to be integrally important in managing patient’s health now and in the future.

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Articles

A conference on blockchain and health is scheduled to be held at the Africa Blockchain Developers Call.

Izunna Okpala

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The Africa Blockchain Developers Call (ABDC) Pan-African Bootcamp on blockchain technology has declared its intention to hold a weekend conference on incorporating blockchain technology into Africa’s health sector.

In an attempt to execute comprehensive blockchain training sessions and promote the implementation of specially designed applications for different sectors in Africa, the Bootcamp, officially launched on 5 September, has taken on a host of African developers.

The Bootcamp also features virtual weekend conferences on many use-cases for blockchain. These conferences are aimed at encouraging creative and comprehensive discussions on the implementation of blockchain technology in Africa, including platform presentations by businesses and panel sessions on many Blockchain issues. The first meeting, focusing on Blockchain in Finance, took place on September 5. It featured a keynote speech given by Professor Anicia Peters, University of Namibia Pro-Vice Chancellor for Science, Innovation and Development.

The next conference, scheduled to take place on October 3rd, will focus on the theme: Blockchain in Health. The keynote speech will be given by Arnab Paul, President of the Kolkata Chapter in India. Several organizations and startups will also give platform presentations via their representatives based on medical use cases for blockchain technology.

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Apps & Services

Coronavirus: The Covid Tracker software from Ireland is out

Izunna Okpala

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Ireland’s just-released contact-tracing app this morning, where it joined Germany’s Corona Warn-App, which was released three weeks ago.

Gibraltar recently released its Beat Covid Gibraltar app, based on the Irish code.

The Republic’s Covid Tracker software is also the foundation of an app. Northern Ireland is promising to release within weeks. And now there’s a hint Wales could go the same way.

The focus henceforth would be on building a “decentralised” app with the toolkit offered by Apple and Google, which is also being used by Germany and Ireland among a growing list of others.

On Monday, Baroness Harding gave evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee alongside Simon Thompson, the Ocado executive she drafted in to take responsibility for the app.

Mr Thompson started by saying how urgent it was to get the job done. He went on to stress that collaboration with other countries and with Google and Apple meant that “we have growing confidence that we will have a product that will be good, so that the citizens can trust it in terms of its basic functionality”.

Bluetooth doubts

Now it is true that there is very little evidence that Bluetooth-based apps have so far been successful in tracking down people who came close to someone diagnosed with the virus.

People who point to the success of countries like South Korea ignore the fact that its efforts have been based not on Bluetooth but on the use of mass surveillance data, which would almost certainly prove unacceptable here.

Scientists at Trinity College in Dublin who advised the Irish app development team have produced a number of studies showing Bluetooth can be a very unreliable way to log contacts.

After tests on a bus they warned “the signal strength can be higher between phones that are far apart than phones close together, making reliable proximity detection based on signal strength hard or perhaps even impossible”.

‘Good enough’

Germany has celebrated the fact that in three weeks its app has been downloaded by 15 million people out of a population of 83 million. But there is little or no information about whether it is performing well in its core mission of contact tracing.

Then again, countries like Germany, Ireland and Switzerland have taken the view that an app does not have to be technically perfect, and that if there is any chance of it making even a small contribution to the battle against the virus, it’s worth a go.

Countries like Germany might be tempted to point out that they have had that “cake” in the form of an effective manual tracing programme all along. Incidentally, if public trust is vital to the app’s rollout, the people of the Isle of Wight may have something to say about that.

Following the trial of the original, scrapped NHSX app on the island, some residents have been asking what will happen to their data. We’ve asked too – and have yet to receive an answer.

While the Covid Tracker app has been launched by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the Republic of Ireland, people living across the border in Northern Ireland are able to download it and use it.

Its terms and conditions state that it is intended to be used by anyone living in or visiting the island of Ireland.

They also state that its availability for people living or visiting in Northern Ireland “is intended to help us to inform people living in border areas and to trace cases in those areas”.

Anyone using the app in NI is able to activate the contact tracing facility and can also self-report symptoms using the “Covid Check-In section”.

However, in the section which asks users to enter personal details, including gender and age-range, those living in Northern Ireland can’t add their county of residence. Only counties in the Republic of Ireland are listed – not the six in NI.

It isn’t yet clear what impact this has on the functionality of the app for NI users.

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