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

Peering out the window as our 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.

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.

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

Blog

How DSTI is transforming Governance with one public servant, within one institution and for one citizen at a time

Written by Dr. David Moinina Sengeh

Over the next two weeks, six Ministries, Departments and Agencies, DSTI, an embedded researcher and an awesome volunteer facilitator/researcher/civic tech expert, my wife, Kate Krontiris are going to be solving critical challenges that will transform the lives of citizens done through an MIT/GovLab custom-developed course for Sierra Leone.

Below are the MDAs and their initial problems/solutions.

National Minerals Agency: Implement mineral processing laboratory information management system

Ministry of Transport and Aviation: Reliable vehicle data systems to support the new government fleet policy

National Revenue Authority: Digitalisation of taxpayer engagement

Office of the Administrator General: Digitalisation of land records for enhanced citizen access

National Public Procurement Authority: Improving communication between NPPA and MDAs for improved procurement

Teaching Service Commission: Teacher management record and enhanced service delivery for efficient performance management

This latest high-level partnership between DSTI and MIT (supported by Gates Foundation) and local partners like Africell is valued at about $100,000 of which $80,000 will go towards problem solving directly. At least two of the six teams will win up to $40,000 to implement their ideas.

This Bootcamp also builds on The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation – DSTI ‘s strategic digital skills development of government employees including the Coursera Workforce Recovery program (which targetted 50,000 participants) and the eDACY Digital Foundation for Public Services (250 participants).

Our vision at DSTI was to support delivery of the Government’s National Development Plan and to strengthen Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. On both of these, we are happy to be transforming Governance while building human capacity at all levels one person, one institution and one life at a time.

Blog

Redefining Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation Education At the University of Sierra Leone

15th May 2021- 

Mornings on the slopes of Mount Aureol are unlike any other; the chilled breeze and tranquil quietness are broken only by chirping birds, honking cars and the chatter of commuting students. These serene plains are home to the oldest western-style university in West Africa Africa. The Fourah Bay College (FBC), was founded in 1827 and for almost 200 years, it has been the epicentre of higher education and advanced learning in Sierra Leone.Despite its illustrious heritage   in the aftermath of an 11-year civil conflict which provoked a downward spiral in the type and quality of education, many efforts are being made to transform learning outcomes for students. .

In August 2018, H.E President Julius Maada Bio launched the Free Quality School Education (FQSE) Program and allocated 21% of the national budget to fulfil the government’s flagship commitment to boost educational standards nationwide. This undertaking promises to directly benefit 2.6 million school children , who make up approximately 37% of Sierra Leone’s population. These and other developments demonstrate that there is indeed the political will to effect inclusive and  radical reforms in education. Further engagements at the Technical and Higher Education level have seen the government increase the salary of university lecturers and student hostels and learning environments have been upgraded by the government. New departments of Mining Engineering and Architecture have been established at FBC as the government promotes human capital development relevant to the 21st Century. 

Much has changed at Mount Aureol since the gloomy days of the early post-conflict years; there is even an unfamiliar spectacle of DSTI’s CIO Dr David Moinina Sengeh, lecturing close to hundred students in a final year (honors). While Dr. Sengeh serves as the Minister of Basic Education, he is one of the young, dynamic and spirited academics rewriting the narrative in post-secondary education. The course he is currently lecturing is titled Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program (FENG 510).

Dr. Sengeh believes that FENG 510 has the potential to make meaningful contributions to Sierra Leone’s Human Capital Development Agenda through a robust course model designed to equip students to rethink business models that are more impactful, sustainable, and connected to other sectors of the economy such as Poverty Reduction, Education, Health and Agriculture.

FENG 510 can empower students with access to information, job opportunities, and services that invariably improve their living standard whilst enhancing opportunities for data gathering and analysis for more targeted and effective entrepreneurship strategies. However, the biggest value is that the course is hands-on. Students will develop and present prototypes accompanied by detailed business plans as part of the course – Dr David Sengeh.

Students currently enrolled in the course believe it raises crucial awareness, inspires and stimulates their interests as budding engineers to embark on careers focused on harnessing the culture of upscaling technologies to develop creative entrepreneurship schemes.

Mr Emmanuel Gaima, a mechanical engineering student, said; 

“The FENG 510 program presents a unique opportunity for Sierra Leone to leapfrog in its efforts to cultivate a sustainable nation-building drive. Dr. Sengeh is making great strides in this direction.  It is a surreal experience to be taught by Dr. Sengeh. He is cheerful, welcoming and above all highly intelligent. Bearing witness to what he has accomplished both academically and as a high-level government official  is a wake-up call to us as youths and future engineers, not merely to be spectators or observers in the struggle for national development but to be active participants and proponents of it.”

Miss Afanwi Dobgima, a student who hopes to specialise in electrical engineering, also expressed identical sentiments;

I think FENG 510 is an enlightening and mind-blowing class. Dr Sengeh has helped me to gain a better understanding of how we can co-opt technology and

entrepreneurship to improve Human Capital significantly. We have discussed at length the limitations of engaging technology here, two of which are inadequate electricity supply and data availability and affordability. As Engineering students, he challenges us to do more to tackle these issues. That being said, leveraging tech is a step-by-step process. With all hands on deck, we can help Sierra Leone achieve the best version of itself. These are some of the thoughts I always leave the classroom with. 

With such enthusiasm and appetite for success, Dr. Sengeh is convinced that students in the FENG 510 program are uniquely positioned to make cutting-edge interventions across multiple sectors in the coming years as they will possess the requisite toolkits to tackle existing drawbacks preventing the integration of emerging tech for national development. For Instance, in the Agricultural sector, farmers can leverage the Internet of Things to optimise productivity and reduce waste through data-driven “precision farming” techniques. Also, with numerous health challenges exacerbated by climate change, limited physical infrastructure, and a lack of qualified professionals, technology can help mitigate these threats and build sustainable health care systems.

Blog

DSTI Holds First Public Legislative Consultation with Partners and Stakeholders.

As citizens, partners and stakeholders converged at the Atlantic Lumley Hotel’s conference room, it was evident that inclusive governance and administrative efficiency was the theme at DSTI’s first Public Consultation Workshop; which brought partners together for initial discussions on the drafting of legislation for the establishment and operation of DSTI as a statutory body in Sierra Leone.

Before the discussions opened, DSTI’s CIO and Minister of Basic Education, Dr David Sengeh, encouraged participants to exhibit raw energy and enthusiasm during the deliberations.

The event commenced with discussions, and statements by several DSTI partners such as Tony Blair Institute (TBI), UNICEF, Massachusett Institute of Technology (MIT) Gov Lab, Coursera for Government, and the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), based on projects that seek to drive national development. This set the tone for meaningful exchange between participants and created a conducive space for sharing views and suggestions on DSTI’s proposed structure, functions and powers to be captured in the draft bill which is considered an integral part of the consultative process.

Director of Innovation at Unicef Sierra Leone, Shane O’ Connor stated that ‘‘UNICEF’s continued partnership and support will always be available for DSTI’s quality service delivery agenda’’.

The consultation included representatives from public and private sector partners and MDAs supported by DSTI, such as Law Reform Commission, National Telecommunication (NATCOM), Sierra Leoneans in Tech, Orange SL, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Tony Blair Institution ( TBI), Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), Ministry of Finance (MOF), National Commission for Persons with Disability (NCPD), and Human Resource Management Office (HRMO).

During his presentation, the Head of Project Design and Delivery, PJ Cole, described DSTI projects and the different local and international partnerships. He further emphasized the three core methods of delivery (Human-Centred Design, Fractal Problem Solving and Innovative Technical solutions), and the National Innovation and Digital Strategy (NIDS) which continues to cushion DSTI’s work in influencing and redefining governance interventions across multiple sectors. 

Presentations on the projects implemented at DSTI were done by, States Counsel and Project Coordinator, Salima Bah, Project coordinator, Bineta Diop, and 4IR Lead, David Manley respectively. 

The highlight of the event was a full hour breakout session, which saw participants divided into two groups charged with the responsibility of making proposals and suggestions on (i) the structure and (ii) the functions/powers & regulations upon which DSTI would be established and operated by law and develop constructive recommendations which will influence and reflect in the contents of the DSTI legislation.

The event ended with presentations from the breakout session group leads and sharing insights on the deliberations from their respective groups. During one of the presentations, Tony Blair Institute Technical Consultant, Nomtha Sithole, expressed that “DSTI needs to be the institution that designs and incubates cross-department initiatives and ideas to optimise governance efficiency.” This was also echoed by various groups that DSTI should provide oversight, optimise compliance ratio and set standards for implementation of tech solutions and data systems across all MDAs in Sierra Leone.

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Sierra Leone drives capacity building in the public sector with the Digital Foundation Program

February 23rd 2021 –  The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology to everyday life including the way we learn and work which has made it imperative that we adapt to meet the demands of the new age.

As part of its agenda to drive digital transformation and establish Sierra Leone as an innovation and entrepreneurship hub, the Government in its Medium Term National Development Plan has prioritized Human Capital Development with education as its flagship program. To deliver on this, the Government has sought to explore opportunities for human capacity development and to upscale and reskill the current workforce through digital learning platforms.

In support, DSTI on November 4th, 2020 announced its partnership with EDACY to launch a Digital Foundations For Public Service Program, a 5-week online program designed to equip government employees with the skills, knowledge and mindset needed to successfully navigate the “new normal” driven by digital technology and innovation. 

“At EDACY, we believe that access to great development opportunities in today’s digital world comes from the right learning experiences, mixing digital tools, collaborative learning and peer reviews. We launched the Digital Foundations for Public Services Program with the desire to help African governments with high-quality training. We are now delighted to have collaborated with the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) of Sierra Leone and supported their employees’ capability development.” Said Temitope Ola – Founder and President, EDACY.

The training and certification of 250 public service participants in digital skill courses does not only boost our international HCD credentials but similarly affirms the government’s commitment to achieving its Millennium Development Goals.

The Initiative has in more ways emerged not only as a success story but as a yardstick for determining the viability of successive initiatives of this nature. Following the launch, 250 public sector employees from over 40 government Ministries, Departments and Agencies successfully registered to undertake the program. 

Sierra Leone drives capacity building in the public sector with the Digital Foundation Program 

February 23rd 2021 –  The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology to everyday life including the way we learn and work which has made it imperative that we adapt to meet the demands of the new age.

As part of its agenda to drive digital transformation and establish Sierra Leone as an innovation and entrepreneurship hub, the Government in its Medium Term National Development Plan has prioritized Human Capital Development with education as its flagship program. To deliver on this, the Government has sought to explore opportunities for human capacity development and to upscale and reskill the current workforce through digital learning platforms.

In support, DSTI on November 4th, 2020 announced its partnership with EDACY to launch a Digital Foundations For Public Service Program, a 5-week online program designed to equip government employees with the skills, knowledge and mindset needed to successfully navigate the “new normal” driven by digital technology and innovation. 

“At EDACY, we believe that access to great development opportunities in today’s digital world comes from the right learning experiences, mixing digital tools, collaborative learning and peer reviews. We launched the Digital Foundations for Public Services Program with the desire to help African governments with high-quality training. We are now delighted to have collaborated with the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) of Sierra Leone and supported their employees’ capability development.” Said Temitope Ola – Founder and President, EDACY.

The training and certification of 250 public service participants in digital skill courses does not only boost our international HCD credentials but similarly affirms the government’s commitment to achieving its Millennium Development Goals.

The Initiative has in more ways emerged not only as a success story but as a yardstick for determining the viability of successive initiatives of this nature. Following the launch, 250 public sector employees from over 40 government Ministries, Departments and Agencies successfully registered to undertake the program. 

“ I really enjoyed this program, especially the TIMWOOD theory, which helped me to understand efficient use of time, movement of people’s equipment in performing duties. I also learnt proper management of resources to avoid wastage and gained adequate skills and training to improve employee performance in public service delivery.” Said Rhoda Spencer Cole- Records Assistant,  Office of the Administrator and Registrar General. 

During the virtual Certification Ceremony held earlier today, 75 participants from 26 MDAs were presented with a Certificate for successfully completing over 90% of the program.

  Certificate of Completion Awarded during the ceremony 

The trained and certified participants will contribute to nation building by exploring the new techniques they have gained, offering innovative insight into their organisation’s challenges and identifying new and sustainable solutions to existing problems.

As part of the ongoing drive to support the public sector workforce, DSTI announced a partnership with MIT GOV/LAB to design and develop a Governance Innovation Bootcamp. The  2-week program is designed to give public servants the toolkits needed to design effective and innovative solutions to governance challenges. As a further reward for completing the Digital Foundations Program, 15 out of the available 30 spaces for the Governance Innovation Bootcamp will be reserved for the participants who received a certificate of completion from EDACY.

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Sierra Leone joins Giga towards “Digitization For All”

10 February 2020

The Government of Sierra Leone sees education as central to Human Capital Development and joins Giga to continue accelerating school connectivity and explore innovations to empower communities.

The Government of Sierra Leone, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have signed an agreement to collaborate on Giga, a UNICEF-ITU global initiative to connect every school to the Internet, and every young person to information, opportunity and choice.

Launched in 2019, Giga sets the goal of providing connectivity to every school and its surrounding community in the world. Some 3.7 billion people in the world are unable to access the Internet; a lack of access means children and young people are excluded from the wealth of information available online, limiting their opportunities to learn and grow and to fulfill their potential.

Sierra Leone has made significant progress over the past decade and is now firmly on the path towards long-term sustainable development; however, a combination of factors holds back economic recovery, including inequalities in gender, education, and income and a growing youth population facing youth unemployment. Approximately 70% of youth 15-35 (one-third of total population) are underemployed or unemployed; illiteracy remains a persistent challenge, and youth that lack skills and education find it extremely difficult to compete for the limited jobs available.

The Government recognizes the importance of education toward achieving its goal of Human Capital Development and contributing to not only the global digital economy but also its own national progress. Its Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) has set forth a curriculum focused on empowering learners with foundational competencies and ICT skills; its Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) launched its Digitization for All Strategy to transform Sierra Leone into a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“’Digitization for all’ in Sierra Leone is not just a concept. It is a developmental road map that defines paths we already tread. While the country’s education flagship program is dripping in innovation and technology, connectivity has been a blockade,” said Ms. Michala Mackay, Director & COO of the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Through Giga’s school connectivity mapping and collaboration with the Government, it was found that while 80% of 11,200 schools in Sierra Leone are within 3G or 4G coverage, only 205 schools are connected. 43.3% of Sierra Leoneans cannot connect to the Internet due to cost and digital literacy constraints, while 40% are not covered at all by existing infrastructure — preventing them from accessing the wealth of educational resources and opportunities toward development.

“Connectivity is critical for our lives, our learning and prosperity; however, 960 million people living in Africa are still offline (ITU Facts and Figures 2020). In Sierra Leone where there are 86 mobile-cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, and 84 percent of households are without internet access, connecting all primary and secondary schools to the internet will allow more inclusive access to young learners, enabling them to access the wealth of information available online and opening up future opportunities to them,” highlighted Doreen Bogdan Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.

“Minister Sengeh and his teams have been global leaders on open source technology for the public good,” said Chris Fabian, Co-Lead, Giga. “Financing and monitoring the connectivity of every school, with Giga, can support Sierra Leone’s leadership in digital public goods by helping get better, affordable connectivity into everybody’s hands.”

Sierra Leone joins Giga to expand school connectivity efforts and explore where innovations, such as digital assets, can play a role in empowering entire communities. Giga has already worked with the Government to identify several activities to support the cost-effective connection of approximately 11,000 schools — equipping a further 3 million in their local communities with the tools and skills they need to empower their nation.

“Developing digital skills and infrastructure are fundamental in reinventing education in Sierra Leone. Connecting 1000 pilot schools would no doubt leapfrog national efforts to bridge the digital divide,” said Ms. Mackay. “We are elated to be offered this opportunity and intend to take the fullest advantage of it.”


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World Economic Forum-2030Vision Framework for Government Action Report

World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Global Public Goods – released its 2030Vision report which covers critical conversations that need to manifest in governments to enable the use of technological advancements to support development towards achieving the Global Goals.

The report cited Sierra Leone’s hard-won gains in using science, technology and innovation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic with its National COVID-19 Response Centre (NaCOVERC). The Government of Sierra Leone developed its countrywide COVID‐19 Emergency Response which incorporated an ICT Response Pillar, consisting of public, private and global partners.


The pillar harnesses information technology and data to expand COVID‐19 interventions that inform and guide policy‐makers,  public health experts and citizens on infection prevention and control, when it is necessary to take certain measures such as lockdowns and curfews to mitigate the spread of the virus which is why Sierra Leone records low cases and deaths compared to other countries.

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HCDI Education Innovation Challenge Reflection and Learning Summit Report

A comprehensive introduction to Sierra Leone’s Education Innovation Challenge (EIC) that captures in-depth analysis of the education data including nationwide primary school baseline assessment, interventions by education Service Providers, new education policy, and much more #transforming education in Sierra Leone.

Blog, NIDS

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports Drones in Sierra Leone for medical supply chain innovation

On 20th, October 2020, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a grant of $131,130 to the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) to support the proposal for the design of a sustainable and cost-effective drone-delivery model for integration into Sierra Leone’s medical supply chain.

This is a supplement to the grant that was previously awarded for the support of The Integrated Geographic Information System (iGIS)  Portal, a cross-sectoral spatial data infrastructure and geodatabase.

“When DSTI presented their vision to the Interagency Supplies Group on UAS I was determined to support them. I had been aware of the project from a distance, but it was important to hear the clear articulation of how they planned to work across the different departments of the Sierra Leone Government, and with UNICEF and Crown Agents. Supporting and empowering DSTI helps ensure this is Government-led, that partners selection is consistent with Government procurement protocols and that there is a plan to fund implementation in the medium term that donors can get behind.” David Sarley, Senior Program Officer- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The National Development plan has as one of its strategic objectives, “to transform the health sector from an under-resourced, ill-equipped, and inadequate delivery system into a well resourced and functioning national health-care delivery system that is affordable for everyone and accessible to all.” Consequently, optimizing the speed, responsiveness and efficiency of the existing medical supply chain, through the use of drones to improves access to essential medical supplies, could be a key factor in influencing that outcome.

As an affordable technological device, a drone has the potential to provide increased access to areas in Sierra Leone previously thought too remote or unnavigable. Drones can complete a trip, in under 90 minutes from a single, central location on a drop-and-return basis. This provides leaders and decision-makers in the Ministry of health and Sanitation (MoHS), the following:

  •  a real-time, on-demand delivery strategy for cold chain essential medical supplies  
  •  a cost-effective, timely option for hospitals  and rural community health centres restock rural community health centres to restock 
  •  amplify logistics capabilities by extending the current limited diagnostic coverage 
  •  a rapid-response strategy to pathogen outbreak 

DSTI, in collaboration with the National Medical Supply Agency (NMSA), and their development partners, intend to design a 5-year project to integrate a national drone-based, multi-commodity, medical delivery system in Sierra Leone. This builds on the existing rapport and collaboration with UNICEF Sierra Leone Innovation Office. UNICEF, through the UNICEF Innovation Fund provides resources to quickly assess, fund and scale companies, teams, and ideas that have been developed in new and emerging markets. The Innovation Fund supports the generation of open source, public goods that address the most pressing challenges facing children. It was under this mandate that the collaboration between DSTI and UNICEF SL was forged, leading to the establishment of West Africa’s first Drone / UAV / UAS testing corridor in Sierra Leone in November 2019.  

“In Sierra Leone, innovation is not an option. It is our determination to use fourth industrial revolution technologies to solve our most intractable problems. To see our work in drones, advance from idea, to a drone corridor, and now being projected on a flight path is incredible. The day when lives will be saved because of cost-effective national drone delivery mechanisms is upon us in Sierra Leone. With the partnerships being created and led by government, the impact will be transformational.” Dr David  Moinina Sengeh, CIO 

In line with the objective of developing Sierra Leone’s drone ecosystem organically, the design team will be putting out an expression of interest inviting suppliers to demo multiple use cases and UAV capacity in the corridor to inform the final proposal document. A scholarship would be awarded to the supplier selected using the grant resources.  

The Managing Director of the NMSA, Dr Lawrence Sandy, hopes that the introduction of drone technology will support and enhance the timely delivery of critically needed medical commodities such as blood products, and temperature sensitive drugs like oxytocin to remote and hard to reach communities. He continued by saying, 

“This would save precious lives, empower our health workforce, and strengthen our healthcare systems. A healthcare system is only as good as having the ability to deliver critically needed life-saving products at service delivery points to treat, prevent and reduce disease burden on individuals and communities. As a nation, we’ve made significant strides over the last two years to optimize our drug distribution systems. We are with a strong view that this innovation will reduce our maternal and child mortality and morbidity, improve health outcomes and strengthen our supply chain into a more resilient outfit. We look forward to a fostered partnership and close collaboration on this national drone project.

To make any inquiries, send an email to drones@dsti.gov.sl

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