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February 2023

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DSTI and MIT GOV/LAB –  Benefits of Collaborative Innovation Projects and Intended Next Steps 

Final reflections  

 The MIT GOV/LAB partnership has indeed provided a significant amount of learning and opportunity. It remains clear to all of us involved that the outcomes of this partnership have the potential to benefit the citizens of Sierra Leone on both a macro and micro level. These benefits are particularly exciting, as they can add value for citizens in both the short and long term.  

 For the individual citizen, having access to these tools could and should help citizens save money. Within a context where those without access to information can be taken advantage of, this type of solution provides an important first step in correcting a latent injustice. Whether it be the opportunity for lawyers to access and verify information on land instruments or allow self-employed workers to calculate their tax obligations, there are clear benefits. With that said, more can be done to increase access to these tools in general. More specifically, thinking about how citizens with low literacy levels engage with these tech solutions remain a consideration.  

 Sierra Leonean citizens who have worked as equal partners on this project have gained significant learnings from this experience. By becoming active members of this process, all stakeholders involved have been afforded a safe space to experiment and learn by doing. For the educators among us, creating an environment where one can learn by ‘play’ tugs at the centre of our Piagetian heartstrings. Alongside this by deliberately providing manageable next steps and building on existing knowledge, the DSTI and MIT teams have been able to ‘scaffold’ learning. By providing support in a deliberate manner (including challenge and questioning), we were able to enlarge the zone of proximal development and increase learning for all. Although not perfect in delivery, by consciously employing classics in teaching pedagogy, the team was able to support the development of human capital for the individuals involved.    

 On a macro level, the tools developed possess a huge amount of untapped potential if embedded and adopted. Increasing access to information on taxes due also empowers businesses to make informed decisions. As an example, by increasing transparency and indirectly contributing to the confidence one has in paying taxes, it also strengthens the social contract between the government and citizens. Additionally, by strengthening the organisational knowledge of DSTI and other MDAs, a partnership such as this can help supercharge efficiency and effectiveness. Capturing and sharing learnings across MDAs also allowed leaders within this context to not only imagine what can be done but see the process for themselves.   

Complementary to the above, contributions to the wider ecosystem cannot and should not be underestimated. In addition to supporting MDAs to adopt tech solutions, this project has indirectly exposed some stakeholders to elements of the fourth industrial revolution. By introducing language and concepts around technology that were not part of their toolkit before, the DSTI-MIT GOV/LAB partnership takes a crucial step in shaping the culture.  

Moving from the abstract to the tangible, the development of a tech tool, built by Sierra Leoneans for Sierra Leoneans also makes a small contribution to the tech economy.   

Although small in monetary value, the deliberate selection of a local company to develop a solution for an MDA can contribute to creating a positive narrative. This change in narrative is important as it also begins to unsettle the status quo and demand the attention of policymakers and those in governance. The development of tools that have the potential to become disruptive technologies within this context is also exciting. Through this project, other MDAs and partners will be able to see that Sierra Leonean firms can deliver to an international standard and should not settle for less. Complementary to increasing potential client confidence within the country, a partnership like this also allows Sierra Leone to tell its own story in a positive light to an international audience. If change is to continue in Sierra Leone, it should continue to be driven by local actors with support from international partners such as the MIT GOV/LAB. The MVP outputs, learnings to date and positive feelings left with Sierra Leoneans provide compelling evidence for this.  


What happens now?  

The “what happens now” question leaves me with two competing emotions, excitement and trepidation respectively. Speaking personally, I have a fear that the learnings experienced, and products made will not become embedded and used. Alongside being a waste of much-needed resources, the concern that an opportunity for Sierra Leone citizens could be lost, deeply moves me. To help mitigate this risk and increase the likelihood of success by our DSTI metrics, several deliberate actions must be taken by us all.  

Firstly, conversations around implementation, launch and scale-up must continue on several levels. Within this, helping MDAs identify the changes needed to refine the MVPs for wider consumption must happen. Through this, the development of internal and external policies where appropriate will also help ensure that these tools which are then fit for purpose, are embedded. To ensure this happens, engagement with end users, administrators and technocrats must be well thought out and completed with dogged determination.   

Secondly, resources to deliver on key areas identified must be found. Whilst identifying the much-needed fixes for the MDAs, it will also be essential to find funding and resources for the technical work. Alongside this, it will also be essential to run a sensitisation and marketing campaign that raises the potential of these tools with end users. Although not part of the original scope, it has become increasingly clear that without investing in these two areas, adoption will fail.   

Thirdly, learnings must continue to be captured, interrogated and analysed. Our belief is that learning should not be limited to a quantum of time but be part of an attitude to life itself. By continuing the present momentum and partnering with organisations such as MIT to extend studies and capture the impact of adoption, we have an opportunity to learn how to accelerate the deployment of innovative technology within this context. The hope through this will be to generate a toolkit that employs theories of behavioural change that are contextualised and localised.  

Only through all of the above happening will we have a chance at making a lasting impact. This opportunity must continue to be owned by Sierra Leoneans so change is not ‘done’ to us, but owned by us. This future must be the property of Sierra Leoneans. However, we can only get there through meaningful collaboration. The realisation of these two principles will guide our path through this fourth industrial revolution. 

By Kahil Ali


Redefining Digital Education In Sierra Leone: 1000+ Teachers Embrace The Learning Passport

(Dr.  Babasile Daniel, UNICEF’s DPG Consultant, Aiding Participants With The Mobile LP During Breakout Session In Port Loko)

The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) in partnership with UNICEF Sierra Leone and Ministry of Basic & Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), has initiated an 8-week training program for teachers in Kabala, Falaba, Kambia, and West Rural Area Sierra Leone, Tonkolili, Kenema, Bo and Port Loko. The program is designed to train teachers on the use of the Learning Passport, an innovative online platform that provides students with access to past exam questions and simulated mock exercises.

Left To Right (Dr. Babasile Daniel, Unicef DPG Consultant, Mr. Osman Kamara, Director of Curriculum & Research MBSSE, Mr. Joseph Fallah Yondah, Learning Passport Specialist Unicef)

Now in its 4th week, the training has been a resounding success, with teachers embracing the Learning Passport as a tool for revolutionising the education system in Sierra Leone. The participants have been enthusiastic about the program, recognizing the potential it has to improve the quality of education and enhance students’ academic performance.

(Mr. Koroma Making A Statement)

One of the participating teachers, Mr. Koroma, stated, “The Learning Passport is a game-changer. It provides our students with access to exam questions from past years, and it enables them to practise simulated mock exams, which is crucial for their success in national exams.” He went on to add that “this training is preparing us to use the Learning Passport effectively, and we can’t wait to implement it in our classrooms.”

Mr. Edward Vamboi, Innovation Specialist At UNICEFSL Facilitating Breakout Session.

The Learning Passport is an online platform that provides access to a wide range of educational resources, including videos, games, quizzes, and past exam questions. The platform is designed to be user-friendly, and it can be accessed on any device with an internet connection.

A Teacher Asking Questions On The Use Of The LP

The impact of the Learning Passport on students’ academic performance has been significant. According to UNICEF, students who use the Learning Passport are more likely to pass their exams and progress to the next grade. The platform has also been instrumental in increasing students’ engagement and motivation, as it provides a fun and interactive way of learning.

According to Mr. Bani Forster, the LP program coordinator, “The Learning Passport has the potential to transform the education system in Sierra Leone, and we are excited about the impact it will have on our students. We are pleased to see that the teachers are embracing the platform and are eager to use it in their classrooms.”

(DSTI’s LP Project Lead, Bani Forster Gives LP Overview Before Training)

As the training program enters its 5th week, there is no doubt that the Learning Passport will continue to play a vital role in improving the quality of education in Sierra Leone. The enthusiasm and dedication of the participating teachers are a testament to the impact of the platform and the commitment of educators to enhance the learning experience for their students.

In conclusion, the Learning Passport training program is a step towards transforming the education system in Sierra Leone. It provides students with access to crucial resources and enhances their academic performance. With the commitment of the participating teachers, the impact of the Learning Passport is bound to be significant, and there is no doubt that the training program will continue to empower teachers and students alike.


DSTI & UNICEF hold the first official meeting of the Sierra Leone Digital Public Goods Steering Committee.

The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI), in partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), officially held the first meeting of the Digital Public Goods Sierra Leone technical working group on Friday, 3rd February, 2023.

(DSTI’s Director & Chief Operating Officer,  Ms. Michala Mackay making the opening statement)

The gathering’s inaugural session, which included top specialists in the digital field from across the professional spectrum, was widely attended. Government Ministers, development partners, civil society activists, business executives, non-governmental organisation representatives, journalists, and many more made up the audience.

Digital public goods are public goods in the form of open-source software, data sets, AI models, or digital content. These tools contribute to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable development goals (SDGs), and must meet a range of international standards found here.

As the proud home of Africa’s first representative on the Digital Public Goods Alliance Governance Board, Sierra Leone has established itself as a steadfast supporter of incorporating open-source technology into many development areas, including health, agriculture, and disaster response. This has also given some colleges the chance to adjust their curricula to meet the rising demand for fundamental digital skills.

(Presidential Adviser, Dr. Emmanuel Gaima, Delivering The Keynote Address On Behalf Of The Chief Minister)

UNICEF’s’s Country Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh, believes that “the launch of this DPG Initiative comes as a welcomed sequel to DPG Hackathon which brought together young people from different backgrounds to collaborate and build sustainable digital solutions to problems in their communities.

The launch of this initiative promises to make open-source software and tools accessible to emerging technocrats and tech enthusiasts whilst addressing the existing challenge of skills gaps for young people within the workforce by providing more digital learning opportunities.”

(Unicef’s Country Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh Making A Statement)

“The roll-out of this initiative is set to optimise and redefine existing notions about DPGs meaningfully. Furthermore, the initiative aligns with the broader objective of advancing President Julius Maada Bio’s Human Capital Development Agenda for the people of Sierra Leone” – Dr. Francis Kaikai, Minister of Planning & Economic Development.

(Dr. Francis Kaikai, Minister of Planning & Economic Development, making a statement)

Delivering his closing remarks, DSTI Consultant, Kahil Ali, emphasised the great deal of promise he sees in this initiative.

( DSTI Consultant, Kahil Ali, Delivering His Closing Remarks)

`We can only meet the demands of the 21st century workforce if we acquire the capacity and skills required locally. DPG’s have the potential to provide a wide range of benefits and even more opportunities to our young people. In addition to driving the job market through potential job creation, the money saved by using DPG’s can be used to benefit many of the citizens across Sierra Leone.’ – DSTI Consultant, Kahil Ali.

Want to know more about the DPGs or how to get involved?  Learn More Here 

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