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GenUnlimited Sierra Leone; A Precept For Recognizing Youth Potential.

The flare and liveliness that define our years of youth have often been portrayed as one of the most fleeting scenes of life. A scene where we move with ease, enjoy momentary thrills, and bask in the cheap luxury that is time. Former British PM Benjamin Disraeli once quaintly described “ the Youth of a Nation as the trustees of posterity.” 

Youth is the period of productivity, industry, and enterprise. Now more than ever, young people deserve a seat at the table as they have an indispensable role in helping humanity create a future built on sustainability and self-reliance. Governments must tap into the expertise, ingenuity, and energy of their young people and then deploy these ideas into Africa’s economic transformation drive.

The Ministry of Youth Affairs, in fulfillment of its mandate, to prepare and empower the young people of Sierra Leone to make meaningful contributions to national development partnered with UNICEF and The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation, to put out a call for a nationwide nomination of young people serving as youth leaders in their communities. 

This initiative sought to achieve two things fundamentally; firstly, to select two young people to represent Sierra Leone at the GenU Global Governance Structure and secondly, to illuminate the relatively obscure but profoundly impactful activities undertaken by young people in their respective communities and spheres of influence. 

Young people must embrace the wave of opportunity, growth, and progress that technology has to offer. Round Table dialogues set the tone for a more extensive discourse on the role and evolution of tomorrow’s leaders – Dr. Suleiman Braimoh, Country Rep, UnicefSL.

136 youth leaders were nominated 1179 times from every region across Sierra Leone. Amongst these, the six nominees with the highest nominations were selected for an interview. 

The six top qualifying nominees were Zipporah Hawa Moriba, Patrick Hassien Gbessay. Samuel Mattia, Martin Daimbaquee, Isha Gibril Sesay, and Isatu Moses. The selection process was merit-based and accorded equal opportunities to young men and women. There was an intentional effort to shortlist candidates from different districts and diverse backgrounds in relation to gender, age, and ethnic identity.

After the selection process, Zipporah Hawa Moriba and Patrick Hassien Gbessay emerged as the winning nominees.

Zipporah Hawa Moriba is from Freetown. She is the Founder and Director of Girls Aid Movement. Currently, She presently pursues an undergraduate degree in Public Sector Management at the Institute of Public Administration and Management, University of Sierra Leone. She volunteers at Restless Development and MenEngage Africa.

Samuel Patrick Hassien Gbessay is the 25-year-old CEO and Founder of Star Catch Up Salone and staunch advocate at Defence for Children International. He is from Serabu, Bumpeh Ngao Chiefdom, Bo District, Southern Sierra Leone.

Although these nominees hail from diverse backgrounds, the commonplace theme is that they have shown traits of progressive leadership as catalysts for development with little resources available to them. 

Golda Fania, the GenU-Sierra Leone, Project Lead at DSTI, asserted that GenU has the latent potential to redefine existing notions about the role of young people in accelerating socio-economic development and nation-building.

 

Blog

DSTI’s Ecosystems mapping exercise provides a roadmap for recommendations towards further strengthening and development of Sierra Leone’s tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

After the Global Entrepreneurship Index was released in 2019, Sierra Leone ranked 131 out of 137 Countries, scoring an average of 12% on product innovation, startup skills, technology absorption, human capital development, and other entrepreneurship-related indicators.

The ecosystems unit at the Directorate Science, Technology, and Innovation was determined to reverse the downward spiral and map out a national ecosystem focusing on digital entrepreneurship in Sierra Leone. This DSTI led effort attracted several development partners who made financial and moral commitments, most notably, the United Nations Capital Development Fund and United Nations Development Fund. The latter committed almost 100% of the funds to get the initiative off the ground, and the former pledged to provide logistical support through an accelerator lab. 

Unfortunately, before the initiative could formally take off, the COVID pandemic struck, and this, for obvious reasons, delayed the inception of the project. Nevertheless, the project started at the end of 2020 after receiving funds from both UN agencies and the green light from DSTI leadership to proceed.

The project commenced with discussions amongst a varied group of stakeholders to streamline the dialogue that describes experiences, constraints and opportunities in the current Sierra Leonean technology and entrepreneurial space. The Stakeholders included community leaders, local entrepreneurs and industry professionals from key sectors such as agriculture, health, and education.

The stakeholder consultations provided opportunities for learning and developing appropriate and viable approach(es) to guaranteeing that the needs of stakeholders are met by providing a conducive space to share real-life experiences and test project assumptions about the tech and entrepreneurship space in Sierra Leone. 

A significant task of this project was to conduct an inclusive stakeholder consultation. The national stakeholder consultation was held from December 16 – 21, 2020, in Bo, Kenema, Makeni, Port Loko and Freetown, and the diaspora consultation was held from February 15 -17 (North America, Europe/Africa, and Asia/Australia).  

The talks were held to get a definitive overview of the operations currently being undertaken in the technology and entrepreneurship landscape.

This serves to furnish government and development partners with insight into existing and emerging issues within the ecosystem, as well as understanding relationships, dependencies, and critical considerations in the mapping process. The information gathered from the consultations framed the research strategy for the mapping process, particularly research targets, areas of focus, and promoting the digitalisation of sectors to leverage growth and provide inclusive platforms for human capital development.

 The stakeholder consultations were instrumental in raising the issues perceived to be vital in understanding the technology and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The composition of stakeholders was wide and varied, and thus their collective voices offered an array of fresh perspectives. Their recommendations were adopted to form part of the ecosystems mapping project as the public’s viewpoints on tech and entrepreneurship in Sierra Leone. 

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After engagements of entrepreneurial stakeholders both home and abroad, the team embarked on a nationwide research. The purpose of the research was to investigate and produce data to support the following objectives;

  •  Identify gaps in the policy and regulatory frameworks of the technology ecosystem 
  • Provide a basis for policy action to address these gaps and support growth and sustainability of the ecosystem:
  •  Obtain data that informs policies and development interventions for micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Sierra Leone. 

  The graph shows the percentage of submission success rate from the fieldwork. 

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The project concluded with a soft launch led by the DSTI Ecosystem Manager to exhibit the digital tool, including a report presentation that will educate entrepreneurs and investors about the ecosystem and how to use it. The ecosystem team discussed what the project means for the future of doing business in Sierra Leone.

The participants included partners from UNCDF, SLEDP, SMEDA, and INVEST SALONE, along with Fix Solution, the company working with DSTI to develop the web application. 

The keynote speaker Dr. Francis Kaikai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, in his address emphasised that “the output from the research including the business digest and the associated data analytics will certainly be of immense benefit to business development, academia [education], and other intellectual communities”. 

The tool and the report are scheduled for an official launch by the end of September 2021.  This launch promises many possibilities for growth, development and advancement for Sierra Leone’s tech and ecosystem Space.

.“The purpose is to curate a refined tool enabling investors and policymakers to develop a fresh perspective and guided sense of Sierra Leone’s potential for economic growth.” – Mahmoud Javombo, Ecosystems Manager, DSTI.

Blog

Progress toward “Digitization for All” in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone joined Giga to expand school connectivity efforts and explore how innovation can play a role in empowering entire communities. Giga is already working with the Government to identify activities to support the cost-effective connection of approximately 11,000 schools, which will equip further 3 million people in their local communities with the tools and skills they need to empower their nation.  

The potential benefits are exponential. A new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Ericsson in support of Giga, finds that if school connectivity levels in Sierra Leone reached those of Rwanda, that could boost GDP per capita by 8% by 2025. If connectivity reached Finland’s levels, the increase could be as much as 14.2%. 

The Government has been championing the importance of education toward achieving its goal of Human Capital Development. Connectivity can contribute to Sierra Leone’s national progress and help citizens to participate fully in the global digital economy. Their efforts have been lauded on a global stage and progress is in full swing on the ground.  

Progress in Sierra Leone and beyond

Sierra Leone has mapped all school locations in Project Connect and is implementing tools to monitor the connectivity status of schools in real-time. Giga has worked with Measurement Labs to develop a browser extension that can be installed in schools to measure speed in real-time. The resulting data can help guide government decision-making and selection of the most cost-efficient connectivity and renewable technologies. It also improves transparency by linking network management to payment processes – ensuring that providers only get paid for the service they provide.

The browser extension has been launched and implemented in 7 schools in Sierra Leone – Leone Preparatory School (Brookfields Town); Kingdom Heritage Model Schools (Sumaila Town); Tower Hill Kindergarten and Primary School (Tower Hill); Annie Walsh Memorial School (Magazine Town); Ahmadiyya Muslim J.S.S. (Kissy Town); Conforti Primary School (Calaba Town); and Royal International Academy (Kissy Town) – and will be deployed in 52 more schools. This pilot will expand to at least 80% of connected schools in other countries, including Kazakhstan, Rwanda, Uzbekistan and Kenya. 

At the First Giga Ministerial Roundtable in Africa which brought together country leaders and partners championing Giga activities in Africa, the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education in Sierra Leone, Dr. David Sengeh, highlighted progress in Sierra Leone and intervened with a focus on innovative financing for connectivity. Giga also organized a panel on “Innovation as a Means to Universal Connectivity” at the Stockholm Internet Forum held on 11 May, bringing together speakers from GSMA, ITU, Ericsson, UNICEF, and the Government of Sierra Leone to discuss the need to resolve information gaps on connectivity and explore innovative solutions to improve the quality of service and ensure universal and meaningful access. 

Sierra Leone National Giga Steering Committee

Sierra Leone has now inaugurated a National Giga Steering Committee to provide high-level strategic guidance and direction on the design, development, and implementation of Giga project activities in the country. Dr. Sengeh took the opportunity during the Government of Sierra Leone’s cabinet meeting on the 16th of June to present Giga to H.E. President Maada Bio, the Vice President, Dr. Juldeh Jalloh and other Ministers; and, after being elected Chair of the National Giga Steering Committee, Dr. Sengeh noted how the presence of “his fellow ministers here today surely underline the commitment of Sierra Leone’s Government and President Bio to the opportunity for generational change that we believe Project Giga brings.” 

 “The objectives of Giga – to boost Human Capital Development in Sierra Leone by connecting schools to the Internet, and our young people to information, opportunity, and choice – are particularly aligned to the Government of Sierra Leone’s development plans and our digitization strategies.”  

Minister Dr. David Sengeh, Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, and CIO, DSTI

The National Giga Steering Committee is made up of:

  • Chair: Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education/ Chief Innovation Officer 
  • Co-Chair: Director of the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) 
  • Alternate Chair/ Co-Chair: Minister of Finance 
  • Attorney General & Minister of Justice 
  • Minister of Information and Communication  
  • Minister of Energy 
  • Minister of Technical and Higher Education 
  • Minister of Local Government 
  • Minister of Planning and Economic Development 
  • Country Representative, UNICEF Sierra Leone 
  • Managing Director/CEO of SALCAB 
  • Director General of NATCOM 
  • Director of Administration – Education For All 

The first actions of the Steering Committee were to approve the Draft Workplan for Giga in Sierra Leone, outlining the path forward for Giga. The Committee members also approved the Terms of Reference and membership of a Technical Working Group, which will have a mandate to: 

  • Provide technical advice and operational support on the implementation of Giga in Sierra Leone in line with the Workplan approved by the Steering Committee 
  • Monitor the implementation of the project activities and highlight potential challenges and propose solutions to address these 
  • Review data, advice on policy and implementation guidelines and provide recommendations for best approaches for implementation 
Blog

The Junior Product Manager and Lyrical Mastermind that is taking Sierra Leone’s music industry by storm

Amidst the thrills and joys of everyday life in the workplace, there is an obscure struggle confronting most professionals. A struggle that has crushed dreams and aborted many possibilities. The struggle is striking an ideal balance between work-life and pursuing one’s passions. 

However, some have narrowly triumphed in this struggle. We will soon discover that it takes an inordinate amount of discipline, resolve and sheer willpower to lead the life you desire.  

In this edition of INNOVATOR’S MIND, we are taking an exclusive and spellbinding trip into the life, work and music of DSTI’s Junior Product Manager, emerging hip hop artist, and sensational lyricist Hindolo Magbity otherwise known as ‘N.Doe’. 

Performance on Independence Day at Bintumani Conference Centre

We interviewed the “Nor Blame Dem” crooner on the evolution of his artistry and personal life. His answers revealed startling truths on how he has worked to maintain the balance between work and play.

  1. When did you start rapping? 

I started writing raps at age 14 but started rapping at the age of 16. 

  1. Who or What inspired you to start rapping? 

Ice Cube and Lil Wayne inspired me to start rapping, but I have always loved music as I used to help out my elder sister with her lyrics. During my final year of high school, I joined a crew called GHM (Grand Hustle Movement), inspired by the TIGHL crew in America. We performed some of our songs at a school event, and everybody loved our music. It was at that point that, I decided that I would make music.

  1. Describe your artistry and music?

I make ‘relatable music’, which is why I uniquely blend English and Krio in my songs. The aim is to reflect diverse scenes of life. I want my music to touch and connect with people in any given mood or state of mind. So if you wish to turn up or you are feeling down, N.Doe is your guy. My catalogue consists of party music, uplifting music, conscious/motivational tunes.

  1. Do you have an agent or manager? 

No, I Am fully independent right now, which gets a little expensive.

  1. Are you open to the idea of working with a manager or a record label?

Sure, but there are certain consultations and negotiations that will have to be done. If everything checks out fine then I’ll be thrilled to work with a label.

  1. As a full-time Junior Product Manager at DSTI, how have you maintained a balance between your work life and chasing your music career?

I believe that fluidity is critical. You must adapt your schedule to make plans for contingencies. Another thing is that you must prioritise and be disciplined to achieve your goals.

  1. Has working at DSTI helped your music career? 

Working at DSTI has profoundly impacted my music. DSTI has taught me about being hardworking, thinking outside the box and how to produce quality work that has an impact. Plus DSTI is a family that genuinely hypes, vibes, and supports my craft. In fact, my latest performance at Sugarland beach was facilitated by a colleague from the office. 

  1. How do you think we can merge technology and innovation to improve the entertainment scene in Sierra Leone?

The recent trends in technology and innovation offer many opportunities the industry can seize. One option is to develop a website that makes SL music readily and easily accessible, as is the case in other African countries. We can even leverage the USSD system to update citizens via SMS when new music projects are released.  With technology and innovation, the opportunities are endless. 

  1. What has been your biggest win so far? 

I’d say working with Mike Millz has been my biggest win. He is a notable producer from Ghana who’s worked with Manifest and other huge artists.

  1. Where do you see N.Doe in the next couple of years?

 N.Doe will be a household name in Sierra Leone, collaborating with artists in and out of Sierra Leone and having endorsement deals.

  1. Name two local and two international artists you would like to collaborate with? 

Two artists from Sierra Leone would be Drizilik and Donnie Major. From the rest of Africa, Ladipoe and Sarkodie. In the International scene, I’d be honored to work with J. Cole and Chronixx.

  1. Name two brands that you would want an endorsement deal with? 

Adidas and probably one of the major financial institutions in Africa.

  1. What new projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my first EP, due for release at the end of November and my new single drops this month, stay tuned for the release date. I am honestly working hard on driving Sierra Leone’s music scene to the global stage. 

  1. What advice do you have for anyone who wants to pursue the journey to superstardom? 

Just keep doing you. It’s not easy being an independent artist for sure, but even if a record label comes your way, never fold because you want that opportunity. Make sure you go through the contract and ensure the arrangements are in your favor. Pray as well, keep working on your craft; strive to be innovative, create quality music, make sure you get better, and never settle for less and always aim for quality.

Unfortunately, not all of us are opportuned to work in spaces where we can actively pursue our passions or where our work complements our passion like N.Doe, but no matter where you find yourself, learn to develop adept strategies to maintain the focused balance necessary for your personal and intellectual growth or to pursue your passion.  

Listen to his music here

Apple Music: https://apple.co/3dVsHuR 

Audiomack: https://bit.ly/3jVdA8s

Amazon Music: https://amzn.to/3wx2BoA

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3dVxjBb

Deezer: https://bit.ly/3dWm8rV

Performance at Bintumani Conference Centre

Performance at Sugarland Beach
Report

2020 Annual School Census Report

The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education has the statutory mandate and authority to coordinate and formulate all educational activities and policies in Sierra Leone.

The yearly School Census (ASC) is an activity designed to gather, collect, analyse and disseminate education data related to schools, social infrastructure, and learning outcomes.

These analyses form the basis for country-wide expertise of trends in numeracy, literacy, retention, transition and multi-level performance.

The conduct of the Annual School Census is digital, which means information is submitted on a close to real-time basis for cleansing and analysis.

This technique of digitising the ASC, which commenced in 2018 in the Ministry, has transitioned the obsolete subculture of file and file management structures. Currently, school-stage statistics are in a precise layout for all schools at district and countrywide stages.

Blog

DSTI’s Policy Lead, Michaella Jane George, starts a new journey

As one of the founding members of the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), Michaella Jane George worked as the Policy Lead from 2018 to 2021 leading the policy team and steering DSTI’s legal strategies and framework in administration, projects, service delivery and informing data-driven policies in government.

With a background as a solicitor and legal consultant who has practiced with two the most reputable firms in Sierra Leone, Michaella is versatile and multi-talented, and this manifested in her delivery on projects such as; Digital Governance, development of the National Innovation and Digital Strategy, National Youth Digital forum, Open Government 2 Public, Education Innovation Challenge, Education Outcome Fund, Ease of Doing Business, Ecosystems Mapping, Grid 3 to name a few.

Michaella served on DSTI leadership and from October 2019 to May 2020, was the acting Director and COO of DSTI, making her the first female to lead a technology and Innovation government institution in Sierra Leone.

Michaella created the social groups (#team fun) and also the DSTI Women group (#DSTIwomen), these groups drive equality, empathy, culture and unwinding necessities.

Before her departure from DSTI, Michaella championed the DSTI by Legislation consultation process that would lead to the establishment of DSTI by an Act of Parliament and leaving the legacy and blueprint of the first technology and Innovation Agency in Sierra Leone.

“As a woman in the professional world, I have learnt that we have to work twice as hard to be at par with our Male counterparts. Our personal life, our style, preferences and sexual orientation are constantly under scrutiny. People judge your level of intelligence by your fashion style or what you chose to do to your body. When young women rise, it’s always associated with a sexual exchange for growth. It’s a tough world, yet that’s what makes us unique. Our greatest challenge is our greatest opportunity. Prove them wrong! and hen all is said and done, one thing that should be undeniable is; your capacity, integrity, consistency, confidence, drive and empathy…stay true, stay you, and as you rise, lift other women.”

Blog

Governance Innovation Bootcamp culminates in a pitch night

MIT Governance Lab (MIT GOV/LAB), in collaboration with the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation (DSTI), designed a two-week Governance Innovation Bootcamp which provided an opportunity for 25 public servants from various government Institutions to learn and apply the MIT Gov/Lab Methodology to develop an innovative approach to solving governance challenges and spark a culture of governance innovation within their teams.

The two-week  Governance Innovation Bootcamp culminated in a pitch night on June 18th  at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown, where participating teams presented the project proposals developed during the Bootcamp to an esteemed Judging Panel for an opportunity to win 6 months of technical from DSTI as well as financial support from a total prize fund of $80,0000// for project implementation.

The participating team comprised of 3 members from the following Institutions; the National Revenue Authority (NRA); Teaching Service Commission(TSC); National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA); National Minerals Agency (MNA); Office of the Administrator and Registrar General (OARG); and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA) as well as aa DSTI embedded staff, and a researcher to provide technical support.

Among the judges were Mohamed Lamin Tarrawalley, the Solicitor General; Prof. Lilly Tsai, Founder and Director of MIT Gov/Lab, Prof. Fredline M’Cormack-Hale, Research and Policy Director for the Institute for Governance Reform in Sierra Leone; Mariama Anthony Williams, the Country Head of the Tony Blair Institute in Sierra Leone; Iman Beoku-Betts, a Data Scientist at the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education; and Asmaa James, Journalist, women’s rights activist, and host of the human rights radio program, Good Morning Sierra Leone.

Mohamed Lamin Tarrawally, Fredline M’Cormack-Hale, and Iman Beoku-Betts

The Keynote Address was delivered by Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, the Chief Innovation Officer of Sierra Leone and Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education,  who expressed the importance of innovation for effective citizens service delivery. In his address, he stated that ‘Governance innovation lies at the core of service delivery in citizens engagement. And the objective of the government is to provide services for its citizens all across the country and that informs its national innovation digital strategy which talks about digitalization for all. It explicitly talks about digital governance, digital identity, and the digital economy. Which most of the teams explained in their presentations’.

 Dr David Moinina Sengeh

Leading up to the pitch night, participants were guided through the four phases of innovation of the MIT Gov/Lab Methodology: (1) identifying a problem, (2) generating validated user-centered insights, (3) designing and refining new concepts, and, finally, turning these concepts into (4) implementable solutions. This Methodology is an iterative process that weaves together practices from human-centered design, systems thinking, and the social sciences reflecting on the learning module developed by Susy Tort and including Gabriela Reygadas and Innocent Ndubuisi-Obi Jr. Kate Krontiris, a civic researcher and strategist, who facilitated the Bootcamp. 

Kate Krontiris,  Civic Researcher and Strategist, facilitated the workshop and co-host at the pitch night.

In a video message played during the event, Professor Lily L. Tsai, MIT GOV/LAB’s Director and Founder said that “we designed this Bootcamp with the purpose of introducing a framework for governance innovation that brings together government officials who want to create solutions to the problems they encounter every day.” 

Although the event was to promote and celebrate innovators in the public sector, the audience was entertained with a powerful poem by DSTI’s 4AIR Lead and poet, David Manley followed up with a captivating performance by an alternative musician and producer, Solo’s Beats. 

4AIR Lead (DSTI) and Poet,  David Manley

 Alternative musician and producer, Solo’s Beats.

Before crowning the winners, certificates of completion were awarded to all participants by Dr. Sengeh, acknowledging their efforts to support the government of Sierra Leone in leveraging tech and innovation to enhance citizen service delivery. 

 Mariatu Flee from MTA,  receives her certificate of completion from Dr Sengeh 

The winning proposals

The teams’ presentations were evaluated on the teams’ understanding of the problem, its relevance, and its context; whether their proposed solution is evidence-based, human-centered, and original; the idea’s potential for solving the problem, changing normative behaviors, and improving the lives of citizens; the feasibility of the outcomes and any potential risks; and the quality of the presentation. 

A winning team from the National Revenue Authority pitched a portal for taxpayers that would include information on deadlines and instructions on how to pay taxes, as well as tax calculators and live chat support. They hope the portal would not only increase revenue for government programs, but also make the department more responsive to citizens that need support for meeting their tax obligations. The system would save people time and money, since many have to travel to and pay a tax agent, and reduce human error with collecting taxes. 

Team NRA won $20,000 for project implementation

Another winning team, from the Office of the Administrator and Registrar General, proposed digitizing the country’s land registry records, which are currently paper-based. Since it takes a long time to sift through paper records, land transactions are frequently delayed. Many paper records are in poor condition due to heat and humidity, and many have been misfiled, resulting in a large number of land disputes. A complete digital record would allow the office to better protect people’s property rights, allow citizens easy access to their land registry records, and reduce the time needed for transactions.   

Team OARG won $30,000 for their drive for a digitized and paperless solution.

The third winning team, from the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA), introduced a plan for improving public procurement reporting. Their department regulates and advises on the government’s public procurement process, but They are two years behind on their reports, in part because of their paper-based process for collecting data. NPPA proposed a centralized database that would allow them to publish more up-to-date reports and conduct more robust data analysis, enabling them to provide other departments with more evidence-based findings for better policy interventions. Since their reports would be both more timely and credible, this could both increase procurement officers’ compliance with NPPA regulations and result in better services for citizens.  

Team NPPA with a cheque for $30,000 

DSTI will continue to work with the winning teams by providing six months of technical support, including; feedback on teams’ progress, technical advice on product design and development, physical space to meet, and connections and introductions to other funding sources. 

DSTI CIO, Michala Mackay expressed that, “the governance innovation bootcamp could not have come at a better time. Instilling trust in public sector service delivery is a priority and what better way to achieve this than digitising processes and procedures.  Gratitude goes to the leadership and members of all the participating entities. To our partners at the MIT Gov lab, we say thank you for being part of Sierra Leone’s digital transformation.”

Thank you to our  media partners Africell, who have been of tremendous support. Together we are makers of history. 

Photo credit: Office of the Vice President and Africell Sierra Leone

Blog

The UNDP Accelerator deep dives with Agriculture Innovators 

As part of the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation’s commitment to strengthen Sierra Leone’s tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem and ongoing partnership with the UNDP Accelerator Lab, a team of technical specialists from DSTI, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Njala and Limkokwing Universities joined the UNDP Accelerator Lab to launch a two- day collective deep-dive mission into proposed agricultural innovations.  

The mission’s objective was to bring together a unique mix of technical experts to thoroughly examine the presented solutions developed by young innovators. Drawn from their wealth of experience in diverse related fields of study, ranging from Agriculture and Agro-tech to design thinking and entrepreneurship, they set about to collectively design two solution-fit experiments. Identify required data to be collected and outline possible result measurement indicators guided by the UNDP Accelerator Lab Experimentation Tool Kit. 

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To give insight and set the stage for the two-day Collective Intelligence session, a detailed presentation about the UNDP Accelerator Lab was delivered by the UNDP Team followed by a brief video summarizing the impact and achievements made within the 18 months of the Lab’s existence.  The strategic role that the Accelerator Lab Team plays within the Innovation and Digitization ecosystem were further amplified by subsequent presenters who cited the groundbreaking influences these experiments will bring about.  

The first solution that was examined on day 1 was, Deep Water Culture Hydroponics. 

Hydroponics is a type of horticulture that involves cultivating crops without soil using mineral nutrients in an aqueous solution. Samuel Miatta, a young innovator from Bo who from a university lecture became keen in understanding hydroponics agriculture.  Samuel plans to revolutionise and restore urban farming using greenhouses to provide a year-round supply of some seasonal fruits and vegetables to enhance daily dietary needs and meet the needs of a competitive market and consumer demands. He presented a prototype of an enclosed soilless unit where cucumber is currently being cultivated.   

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He further expressed that, “having such collaborative and interactive space for constructive feedback to be provided by industry experts motivates me to continue pursuing my passion for innovative solutions in the agricultural sector.” 

The next solution that was examined on day 2 was a locally built poultry hatchery, presented by another young and promising innovator, Martin Dainbaquee from Kono District. Statistics shows that 85% of local poultry farmers import day-old chicks because there is no known functioning hatchery in-country. This situation was made worse by the C19 pandemic travel restrictions, as a result most poultry farmers ran out of stock significant decline in the local production of eggs.  

Faced with this challenge Martin and his friends decided to design and build a prototype of the unit that was presented to the panel. Main features of the hatchery are incubator loading tray, temperature and humidity controllers, auto-regulated egg turning switch, egg testing and brooding areas.  

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Martin envisions that in the long run, his team can start manufacturing low-cost eco-friendly Hatchery Units to reduce the cost local farmers incur to import day-old chicks.  

This Agriculture deep dive forms part of a string of similar sessions to be held in Energy, Water Management and Hygiene planned for 2021, as the UNDP Accelerator Lab team continues to expand the Country Office portfolio of experiments. The hydroponics and hatchery experiments will start in July 2021, and we hope to learn more about the outcomes of each experiment and share this knowledge with a wider national and international audience. From the learnings, the solutions can either be recommended for growth investments or redesigned depending on the outcome. 

In the coming years, Sierra Leone stands to reap the rewards from radical but result-based innovation currently being invested in across the spectrum. Hence why the UNDP Accelerator Lab continues to identify and support local solutions and innovators, while promoting strategic partnerships, with the aim of developing a conducive ecosystem. The accelerator lab plans to continue to develop initiatives where state and non-state actors flourish in their respective spheres of influence, while contributing towards attaining collective national socio-economic objectives.  

Blog

DSTI conducts Aerial Survey on 923 acres of land at Njala University

The Agricultural sector is crucial to the Sierra Leonean economy, it not only accounts for an estimated 60.7% of the GDP but engages around two-thirds of the national labour force, according to World Bank national accounts data. 

The country boasts of approximately 5.4 million hectares of arable agricultural land, 75% of which is available for rapid cultivation. With an average rainfall of roughly 3,800mm per year, the country is one of the most humid areas in Africa.

The 11-year civil conflict now in its past,  destroyed critical agro-based infrastructure which saw statistics on food security plummet considerably; the agricultural sector has been constrained by several factors, including lack of improved inputs, shortage of skilled labour, and post-harvest losses. These constraints were further worsened by recurrent climatic shocks, flooding and erratic precipitation patterns during the seasonal rains. These shocks have increased not only short-term hunger but also compromised the resilience of poor households.

The GoSL has developed an 8 Trillion Leone National Agricultural Transformation Policy 2019- 2023 (NAT 2023) strategy. NAT 2023  aims to address the extant difficulties and put agriculture at the centre of Sierra Leone’s economic and human capital development.

In an effort to supplement this national response to these underlying challenges, Track Your Build (TYB) was contracted to conduct an Aerial Survey for the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation on behalf of Njala University. 

Mr. Thomas T. Songu, ICT Director at Njala University stated that, “Sierra Leone’s population is increasing rapidly, requiring the farming sector to grow exponentially to sustain national development. Luckily, a new relationship has formed between technology and agriculture. Drones and precision agriculture are helping farmers increase food production, protect their crops and protect themselves from poverty. To realise this technological innovation, DSTI and NU are collaborating to use drone and precision agriculture to benefit Sierra Leone: using drones and UAVs to improve land registration process; provide farmers with aerial view of their crops, allowing them to manage them better and notice changes; provide data that helps farmers take inventory of their crops and estimate crop yields faster, and changing the schema of crop insurance.”

The data captured through a drone was used for Aerial Photogrammetry to produce a Topographical Survey as well as an NDVI Survey of a Researchers Farm site at the Njala Mokonde Campus, Moyamba District. Photogrammetry is the science of collecting physical information from photos, often aerial images captured by drones, and combining enough pictures of the same feature. 

Surveying and GIS professionals use drone photogrammetry, along with accurate GPS data, to create 3D maps and models for use in construction, waste management, mining, and aggregated workflows.

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is a measure of the state of plant health, based on how the plant reflects light at certain frequencies. 

TYB mapped out a total of 932 acres in 4 hours, collected 7 Ground Control Points and processed a total of 517 pictures.

Delivering an appraisal of the exercise DSTI’s COO and Director, Michala Mackay, said “This is part of the groundbreaking Human Capital Development Incubator work ongoing at DSTI. The HCDI was set up to design and pilot data-driven solutions, accelerating impactful investments to Sierra Leone’s human capital portfolio. It is focused on driving sustainable innovations in the education, health and agriculture sectors using a robust solution-based three step strategy”

The scaling up of this intervention has the latent capacity to benefit framers in more ways than one. To start with, It offers potential benefits of increased yields, reduced operating costs and superior environmental risk management. Additional benefits include; improved crop maturity and quality, higher tolerance to disease and pest damage, and increased growth, collected data will provide farmers with detailed and accurate information about areas of fertiliser application. 

All of these inherent benefits would encourage a transition from subsistence to commercial and mechanised farming markedly resulting in national food security.

Immersed in thoughts of never ending possibilities, I was promptly stung back into reality when our vehicle alighted at my stop, bringing to an end an all but fun trip working with drones, making discoveries and enjoying the simple thrills of life in the provinces.

As DSTI 4AIR lead, David Manley peered out the window, as the vehicle raced along the highway to Freetown, it was evident that the DSTI soil data collection exercise at Njala University had on all accounts been eventful and riveting, but more importantly, productive. The vast fields of green, silently chiming the untapped potential of bountiful harvests hinted at the colourful prospect of food security for every Sierra Leonean.

Blog

DSTI signs an MoU with 10 Academy to implement the 4IR for All Project

Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), has signed an MoU with a not-for-profit community-owned initiative, 10 Academy to implement the 4IR for All (4IR4A) project.

The 4IR for All project, led by 10 Academy, will be a coalition of African universities and TVET institutions, global industry, individual young Africans, and governmental agencies working together to reach its goals. 4IR4A will link higher African education institutions and create a platform to train and inspire all interested young Africans to get skills for the 4th IR, starting with data science and growing to include other fields including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, bio-engineering, blockchain, quantum computing and others.

This is in line with the Government of Sierra Leone’s interventions in digital learning as a response to the COVID interruptions. Those e-learning initiatives have been rolled out to support remote learning in schools and universities as well as provide opportunities to upscale and prepare the current workforce to acquire the requisite skillsets for roles during and post-COVID. Other activities have included the launch of the first African Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative which offered every Sierra Leonean the opportunity to learn and earn a certification in over 4000 courses across 400 specializations in in-demand and industry-ready skills. In November 2020, DSTI also launched the Digital Foundation for Public Service Program in partnership with EDACY which provided an opportunity for 250 employees in the public sector to acquire digital skills and mindsets.

The 4IR4A includes three key activities:

● Massively parallel training through higher educational institutions and community hubs, reaching motivated young Africans through guest talks, monthly trainings and access to specialized self-teaching content

● Customized training of academics and PhD students, enabling 4IR to be integrated into research work and for educational curricula to be updated

● Intensive training of the highest potential young people, leading directly to job placement in data science and other 4th IR careers.

The project will provide:

A curated and updated list of self-teaching resources, for students to learn from

Monthly teaching-learning challenges, each an end-to-end industry-style data science project, with as many as possible developed using real data, with tutors and support available to help learners progress

Monthly (or more) guest talks from industry

The next batch of training starts 12 July 2021 and previous batches saw 75% of trainees placed into work within 6 months, working for companies around the world. 40% of training spots are for women. No application fee, and you only pay it forward once you are getting paid. To apply and get more information, please access the link 10academy.org/train. Applications close 13 June 2021

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