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May 2019

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DSTI partners with Orange to create Sierra Leone’s first school for coding at IPAM

Orange Sierra Leone has committed 2.75 billion leones towards the creation of Sierra Leone’s first free coding school.  Aminata Kane Ndiaye, Chief Executive Officer, Orange SL, made this announcement at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) at State House. When President Julius Maada Bio visited Harvard and MIT in March, Madame Kane Ndiaye, who was present at the meetings promised that Orange would support Sierra Leone’s digital transformation. The coding school will be at the innovation hub at the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM).

Earlier this year IPAM allocated the fifth floor of the school’s new building for an innovation hub with a signing of an MoU with DSTI. IPAM’s commitment has paved the way for Orange to engage DSTI and for the three institutions to form a public-private partnership to meet the shared objectives of supporting the technology and innovation ecosystem in Sierra Leone.

Speaking at the signing of the MoU Madame Ndiaye said Orange Group seeks to empower young people across the African continent with skills for tomorrow but that the coding school in Sierra Leone will be a first of its kind.

“We are here to create an enabling environment for whoever wants to be a part of the revolution that’s going on around the world,” said Madame Ndiaye.

“Writing code is not something you wake up and do; it’s something you need to learn. So this is why we decided to partner with DSTI to make sure that along with English, along with French, along with Krio,  Sierra Leoneans can learn how to code.”

She said that the coding school would create new job opportunities for Sierra Leoneans. Orange and many other multinationals operating in the country currently have to bring technologists from different parts of West Africa to do coding and computing in Sierra Leone because those skill sets are not readily available in the market. She thanked Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer, DSTI and the Ecosystems technical lead for their openness to collaborating with the private sector.

“IPAM took the lead and generously gave us their best space for the innovation hub, and now with this commitment, Orange is taking us closer to our goals,” said Dr. Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer, DSTI.

“When we do digitization, the private sector in Sierra Leone; the banks, and the telecommunications companies are the largest industries, so they are most important. We are engaging with the private sector and linking them with the government to ensure that the solutions that we implement for government, can be used by citizens,” he said.

With this partnership, DSTI and Orange SL will bring coding skills to the general public and create a space where anyone with a proven interest in learning computer languages can become a coding expert.

The coding school will officially open its doors to the first class of students at the end of the year.

Blog

Njala University in Sierra Leone leads the way in preparing students for 21st Century jobs

Njala University is taking a new approach to learning with a focus on technology and innovation in Sierra Leone. Leaders at the university say that if graduates do not have the skills to match emerging job market opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, the institution would be failing its students and not be fit for purpose.   

At an academic seminar at the University’s Mokonde campus, Dr. Maurice Sesay, Acting Head of Physics & Computer Science laid out a plan for how computational thinking, connectivity, and coding can be used to prepare students for 21st Century jobs. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Sierra Leone’s youth unemployment rate is 70% with some 800,000 young people looking for jobs at any given time.  

Dr. Maurice Sesay, Acting Head of Physics & Computer Science (l) and Professor Abdullah Mansaray, Vice-Chancellor & Principal, Nuala University hold up official membership certification to the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (JWEL)

“We need to bridge the gap between the university and the workforce so that the curriculum can be designed to make students more marketable,” said Dr. Sesay.

Dr. Sesay who recently returned from a week-long hands-on workshop in April at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston is the focal point for Njala’s membership at the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) at MIT. The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) at the Office of the President appointed Njala University to be Sierra Leone’s beneficiary into the J-WEL program because it is the nation’s leading educational institution for STEM with a robust research program in Computer Science and technical postgraduate education.  DSTI, whose mandate is to transform Sierra Leone into an innovation nation, has an ongoing research and knowledge-sharing relationship with MIT that includes forging partnerships between academic institutions in Sierra Leone and MIT.

J-WEL is an incubator for change which “aims to spark a global renaissance in education for all learners, by leveraging MIT’s resources to convene a global community of collaborators for sustainable, high-impact transformation in education through research, policy, pedagogy, and practice.” J-WEL membership includes other higher and technical institutions from Asia, South America, Europe, and Africa.

Njala’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr. Joseph Sherman-Kamara said that DSTI’s support through J-WEL would allow the institution to harness the tools needed to make graduates more employable.

“Higher education systems around the world are undergoing a tremendous transformation in the face of unpredictable circumstances in the job market due to rapid advancements,” said Dr. Sherman-Kamara.

The 21st Century technological revolution, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, means that mechanized jobs are giving way to automation; creating a demand for STEM skills,  computing, and data science. Rapid prototyping, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and social media marketing are some of the 20 fastest growing skills in the world. Those who cannot learn the language of computing will be left behind.

“Coding is just a language; everyone can code. The best students, the most marketable, will be those who can speak spoken languages as well as computer languages like python,” said Dr. Sesay.

In attendance at the Seminar were higher education administrators from across Sierra Leone including the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Njala University, the Vice Chancellor of the Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology, and other representatives from Eastern Polytechnic in Kenema, and Milton Margai College of Education and Technology.  

At the end of the Seminar by Dr. Maurice Sesay, Njala and DSTI signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Sierra Leone’s Chief Innovation Officer, said that Njala has demonstrated tremendous leadership in the manner in which it had embraced technology. The school has not only made ICT compulsory for all incoming students, but Njala also offers free open WIFI on campus (a first in the nation), allowing instant connectivity and public access.

Dr. Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer, DSTI and Professor Abdullah Mansaray, Vice-Chancellor & Principal, Njala University sign MoU to solidify collaboration. 

“In terms of the Fourth Industrial Revolution; digital biology, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, you’re talking about the right things to make Njala not just a leader in Sierra Leone, or the continent, but for Njala to compete globally,” said Dr. Sengeh.

He challenged the university’s administration to go beyond making computer science compulsory to making coding as essential a part of the curriculum as English and Mathematics. Moreover, to the students, he encouraged each one to make it a priority to solve the problems with technology affecting students on campus.

“It is our responsibility as students, as learners, to create the solutions that we need,” said Dr. Sengeh during a roundtable with a cross section of students.

To further support learning, and problem-solving at Njala University, Dr. Sengeh on behalf of the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation donated a 3D Printer and materials to the university- making it the first institution in Sierra Leone outside of the Office of the President to own 3D printing technology.

At the launch of DSTI last year, President Bio challenged Sierra Leoneans to think big, to be innovative, and to change to meet the demands of the world; a message which resonated with the faculty at Njala, who are led by Vice-Chancellor, Professor Abdullah Mansaray.

“If we are to make meaningful contributions to national development, we have to innovate, we have to redesign and restructure the entire higher education sector,” said Professor Mansaray.

Njala University is re-engineering itself from the top down to create an academic ecosystem where research, problem-solving, and innovation can thrive.

“We plan to establish an innovation laboratory, and for that, we need material and financial support,” said Professor Mansaray.

“But the most important of what we need is the intellectual backstopping that Dr. Sengeh and his team {DSTI} will be providing us.”

 

Blog

Sierra Leone takes serious steps towards e-Governance and Digitization

When the Government of Sierra Leone launched the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) last year, it started its journey to transform Sierra Leone into a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. DSTI has since developed credible partnerships with global leaders in academia, advanced research organizations, and international government entities towards that vision. In February 2019, DSTI signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding with eGovernment Academy to establish technical collaboration on e-governance for public service delivery and administration.

This week (May 6-10th, 2019), a team of senior officials from the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) has completed a week-long study tour at the e-Governance Academy (eGA) of Estonia to learn best practices that will inform and shape Sierra Leone’s e-governance and digitization strategy.  Estonia began its journey to digital transformation over two decades ago and are today a world leader for e-governance, e-democracy, and national cybersecurity. It is where government decision-makers go to experience “smart, sustainable, and effective” governance programmes at work.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Priscilla Schwartz led Sierra Leone’s delegation to the eGA along with Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer, Office of the President. Also on the study tour was the Head of ICT Committee of the Sierra Leone Parliament; Deputy Commissioner General, National Revenue Authority; Deputy Governor, Bank of Sierra Leone, and senior representatives from the Ministry of Information and Communication, National Telecommunications Commission, and the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Senior Members of Sierra Leone’s delegation to Estonia’s eGA

The officials from Sierra Leone met their counterparts in Estonia to see digitization and e-governance first-hand and successfully implemented to scale. Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Sengeh engaged with the Minister of Justice and Estonia’s Chief Information Officer respectively. The study tour also included working sessions at the Office of the Prime Minister, the Parliament of Estonia, the Tax and Customs bureau and a visit to the Tallinn Technical University. These interactive engagements showed how laws, policies and technological infrastructure lay the framework for effective e-Governance.

A year ago President Julius Maada Bio established DSTI to harness science, technology, and innovation to effectively and efficiently deliver on its national development plan. This visit demonstrates GoSL’s commitment to harnessing technology for effective and efficient service delivery to its citizens.

Some key e-governance activities so far at DSTI include;  a National Financial Data Architecture with Ministry of Finance, and an integrated geographic information system that maps government services and infrastructure. DSTI has also created an interactive visualization tool to support decision makers in exploring the Annual School Survey data in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and UNICEF.

This study tour will enhance the ongoing partnership between various Ministries, Departments, Agencies, Academic Institutions, private sector, donors and bilateral partners.

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