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National Innovation and Digital Strategy (NIDS) launch is Friday 1 Nov 2019

The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation would like to inform all invitees to the launch of the National Innovation and Digital Strategy that the date has changed.

The President of Sierra Leone will launch NIDS on Friday, 1 Nov., 2019 at 8 a.m. at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Aberdeen.

Please ignore contact information on previous invitation as there was a misprint. To RSVP please contact 076 190 990 or 076 206 252 or email zainab.brima@dsti.gov.sl.

Guests and dignitaries are kindly encouraged to bring their invitations along. Each invite admits one.

The Directorate regrets any and all inconveniences caused by the misprint and change of date.

Blog

Sierra Leone’s Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation marks first anniversary – #DSTIatONE

FREETOWN — The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation is celebrating its first anniversary today.

On October 29th, 2018, President Julius Maada Bio officially launched the nation’s first and only agency primarily focused on science, technology and innovation. DSTI’s mission is to harness the power of technology for good – use big data, computer science, and design to bolster development for Sierra Leone’s 7 million citizens. 

“My strategic vision is developed around questions. Can we plan our economy for long term sustainable growth by deploying innovation? Can we collect reliable data over time that we can use to our advantage in economic planning in the delivery of government services?” 

These were some of the questions posed by President Bio last year, that drives the scientific research and experiments at DSTI led by Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, chief innovation officer, of Sierra Leone. His team of over 20 scientists, researchers, and technical policy experts drive the President’s vision to transform Sierra Leone into an innovation nation.

DSTI has deployed numerous cutting edge solutions.  Most noteworthy amongst these are the GoSL Integrated GIS Platform, the Free Quality Education Data Hub, and ePets, which is part of a larger national financial data services mapping platform to integrate and track government spending. 

While its key function is to support Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), as well as the local tech and innovation ecosystem, DSTI has developed relationships with leading institutions for technology and research globally. DSTI international partners include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UNICEF Innovations, TED, eGovernance Academy of Estonia, Kiva, Tony Blair Institute, and the World Bank

On October 31, 2019, the Directorate will launch the National Innovation and Digital Strategy (NIDS), which is Sierra Leone’s framework for using technology and science to accelerate national development. 

Blog

Sierra Leone invests $1.5 million to bring education innovation to schools for better learning outcomes

A national education dashboard released last month by Sierra Leone’s agency for technology and innovation and the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) showed that schools and students across the country are failing in national exams. To roll back this trend, the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation with support from donor partners are investing $1.5 million into an Education Innovation Challenge (EIC) that will impact 170 schools in all but one district. 

The national exam pass rate for all students is 55%. Two-thirds of students pass at the primary level, but by the time they take the national school-leaving exam at the senior secondary level less than a third pass. More years in school does not result in more learning. 

The World Bank’s 2018-Learning to Realize Education’s Promise reports that “125 million children across the world are not acquiring functional literacy or numeracy, even after spending at least four years in school.” Sierra Leone’s children match this statistic. The latest early grade math and reading assessment results for students in primary class 2 and class 4 show that students are not learning. 

Precisely, it is estimated that 97% of students in class 2 in Sierra Leone, don’t know how to read according to the most current Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) done in 2014. The EGRA is an individually administered oral assessment of the most basic foundation skills for literacy acquisition in early grades, while the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) measures numeracy. Sixty percent of students still score zero on the same EGRA reading comprehension test in class 4. Early math learning outcomes are just as poor. Only 10% of grade 2 students and 30% of grade 4 students can do basic subtraction.

The government of Sierra Leone launched its Free Quality School Education Program in August 2018; the first year focused on access. Year two, which began in August this year, is where the Education Innovation Challenge (EIC) comes in. The EIC is under the technical supervision of the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation’s Human Capital Development Incubator. Its primary aim is to find new ways to improve learning outcomes at primary schools. 

Five organizations in the education sector were chosen through a competitive process out of 20 to implement their innovative approaches.

Save the Children-Sierra Leone, Rising Academy Networks, EducAid, National Youth Awareness Forum Sierra Leone (NYAFSL), and World Vision, will trial their interventions in 170 schools randomly selected across all regions for the 2019-2020 school year. The Education Innovation Challenge is being supported with over $1,5 million of external funding in the first year. The Government of Sierra Leone through MBSSE is providing critical support to the service providers.

“We put out a call for innovative ideas in education under the Education Innovation Challenge,” said Aissatou Bah, Head of Global Partnerships, DSTI. She explained the selection process to education stakeholders at the Northern Region Education Innovation Challenge workshop held in Makeni, Bombali District, in the Northern Province last Thursday. Similar engagements were held in the Eastern and Southern Provinces and the Western Area that brought together all Head Teachers, District Directors of Education, and other staff in one room.

“The five winners of the challenge will run concurrent nationwide experiments in every district except for Falaba due to logistic reasons. We believe that our partners selected through the EIC will help us find solutions to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes in the 170 selected schools.” 

The first phase of the EIC in this pilot edition is with 170 schools. These schools were chosen using the data from the Annual School Census of MBSSE. Data and policy experts at the HCD Incubator, MBSSE and DSTI will continue to provide technical leadership in support of the EIC. An external assessment will be done at the end of this academic year in addition to a baseline assessment to evaluate impact. The results will inform the design of Phase II, a broader 2-year pilot that will run nationwide from 2020 – 2022. The results of the pilot will be used to inform a national scale-up of successful approaches from the EIC. 

Human capital development is the cornerstone of President Bio’s New Direction for Sierra Leone. He promised that education must not only be free, but it must be of a high standard of quality. The Human Capital Development Incubator launched by President Bio in December 2018 at Global Citizen in South Africa promotes innovation in government.

“The incubator is a unique initiative that will bring together the private sector, academia, and government agencies. Partners will share data, build models, develop hypotheses, and test pilot projects to inform government investments in human capital,” said Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer.

“Sierra Leoneans will feel the increased benefits of innovation in their lives.” 

Blog

Sierra Leone to launch bold new digitization strategy

Dr. Moinina David Sengeh has announced that Sierra Leone will launch a National Innovation and Digital Strategy (NIDS) at Bintumani Conference Centre at Aberdeen on Thursday, 31 October 2019. 

The  Chief Innovation Officer shared this news with stakeholders from various Ministries Department and Agencies, private sector partners, Academic Institutions, NGOs, and donor partners who met to review and make contributions to the NIDS document at State House yesterday. 

When the National Innovation and Digital Strategy is launched next week, it will provide the framework, plan, and policy recommendations for the adoption of digital technology for national development. NIDS was developed over the past 18 months by the citizens and the Government of Sierra Leone in collaboration with relevant policy, technology, and research institutions in the public and private sectors. 

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Njala University Joseph Sherman Kamara, said the NIDS would uplift Sierra Leone’s development and help institutions like Njala tap into the benefits of digitization for education.

“For our institution, the strategy means that we now have a national framework document that guides our work to prepare students for the emerging job market,” said Dr. Kamara.

Also present at the meeting were representatives from private financial institutions and telecommunications providers. The General Secretary at Orange Sierra Leone, Haffie Haffner, said the NIDS aligns with the telecommunications industry’s drive to improve connectivity. 

“We launched the digital revolution because we believed right back then that digitization is the way forward to the development of the country,” said Ms. Haffner.

DSTI held the meeting to gain from the knowledge and experience of key partners in the innovation technology ecosystem. The success of NIDS depends mainly on collaboration and inclusiveness. In preparation for the development of NIDS, DSTI and several GoSL leaders traveled to Estonia to learn from the Estonia Governance Academy; DSTI staff went to all 16 districts in Sierra Leone with the National Commission for Children engaging with children on topics of robotics and innovation; and worked with international partners in developing leading-edge policies like Child Rights and AI Ethics with UNICEF

“We want everyone here to take ownership of NIDS, it is only then that we can use technology to deliver on Sierra Leone’s national development plan,” said Dr. Sengeh.


Blog

Register to attend Sierra Leone’s first ‘Big Data’ Seminar with University of Pretoria’s Dr. Vukosi Marivate

Dr. Vukosi Marivate
University of Pretoria

Dr. Vukosi Marivate an expert in machine learning and data science will lead a seminar on “Applied Data Science and Machine Learning” at the University of Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay College on 7 November 2019 for data analysts, university faculty, graduate students, and academic and non-academic researchers.

This is a one-day data science workshop to train policymakers and data experts on new cutting edge tools and data analysis algorithms with a focus on big data.

The seminar will include lectures, interactive demonstrations, hands-on exercises, and discussions covering topics including:

  • Data Science
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Visualizations for Data Science
  • Machine Learning

Eligibility criteria:

  1. Data analysts, university faculty, graduate students, or other academic and non-academic researchers can apply
  2. Applicants must be proficient in reading, listening, speaking and writing in English. 
  3. Applications must be submitted here before the deadline: October 25th, 2019, 12:00pm GMT.

Each participant must come with a laptop to ensure active participation in the exercises and, if possible, come along with data sets to work on.

The seminar is organized by the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Blog

Nigerian lawyer looking to give back turned her holiday into an internship at DSTI

Joy Jegede – Policy Intern at the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation presents her findings on Intellectual Property to government officials at State House in Freetown, Sierra Leone on September 16, 2019
Joy Jegede, a 21-year-old Nigerian lawyer at London School of Economics (LSE) completed a research project on intellectual property law in Sierra Leone and its impacts on innovation.
 
While on holiday, Joy Jegede who was called to the bar in Sierra Leone spent her six-week break as an intern at the Policy Unit at the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation in Freetown. Her research into intellectual property shows how IP give citizens more economic value, leads to human capital development and to industrial development.

Intellectual property (IP) refers to the ownership of an idea or design by the person who came up with it. It is a term used in property law. It gives a person certain exclusive rights to a distinct type of creative design, meaning that nobody else can copy or reuse that creation without the owner’s permission.

Jegede made a presentation of her findings to government officials at State House last month. She highlighted what stronger IP laws would do for creative thinkers and innovators if implemented in Sierra Leone.

At the end of her presentation, DSTI Media caught up with Jegede to find out about her work and how she got her internship.

DSTI Media: How has the experience been?

Joy: It has been a really good experience, I have really enjoyed the policy research process of understanding what is on the ground, how does that compare with jurisdiction between West Africa within Africa and finding out the gaps and how to solve those gaps.

DSTI Media: how do you feel the opportunity to do policy research here at DSTI and in Sierra Leone?

Joy: Me having the opportunity to do what I am passionate about in Sierra Leone and doing it in a technological setting has been a great feeling.

DSTI Media: Did you come with any expectations when you were coming for your internship?

Joy: I actually came with an open mind, there were no expectations.

DSTI Media: Which project have you worked on?

Joy: I have worked on intellectual property law in policy research. This has to do with creations of the mind, inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names and images used in commerce, that is what I have been doing my research on.

DSTI Media: What impact will your research create?

Joy: My research can make an impact if it is followed through, because I could do all this research but if the recommendations are not implemented and the conversation does not continue then there won’t be any impact from my research.

If my research’s recommendations are implemented there will be an established IP system, in which innovators will have confidence to register their intellectual property, their innovation, and their books. It also means international companies, and multinational organizations can come in and set up their companies with the confidence that their IP would be protected and it will not be imitated or copied. Also if it is implemented there will be an increase in the country’s human capital development.

DSTI Media: If given the opportunity to come back here to DSTI will you come back?

Joy: It depends on the type of project that I would be working on if it is something that I am passionate about I will definitely return.

DSTI Media: What advice do you have for others that want to come to DSTI for the purpose of an internship?

Joy: One important lesson I have for others is having clarity into whatever you want to do.

Blog

DSTI announces project coordinator for Sierra Leone’s drone corridor

Edmond Nonie, a mechanical engineer from the Eastern Province, has been appointed as project coordinator for the national Drone Corridor under the technical leadership of UNICEF Sierra Leone’s Technology for Development (T4D) program and the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) at Njala University.  

As the Drone Corridor Project Coordinator, Nonie will provide high-level technical input and project management support for the drone corridor in Sierra Leone.

The 25-acre drone corridor in Korri Chiefdom was secured last month with the signing of a Memorandum of Action between UNICEF Sierra Leone, DSTI, Njala, and the Chiefdom. It will be one of six supported by UNICEF in the world

Nonie will develop the Standard Operating Procedure for the drone corridor, including site assessment, logistical arrangements, protocols, partnerships, data collection, and usage. He will engage partners to increase access to the corridor and skills transfer. Furthermore, he will publish open results of tests and develop best practices for the management of the corridor to inform future projects in other countries.

The project coordinator will work with the multi-sectoral T4D team at UNICEF Sierra Leone Country Office, Officer of Innovations in New York, and the DSTI at Statehouse. 

Nonie is a mechanical engineer with regional expertise in haulage, logistics, and project management. He is the founder of Track Your Build, a drone mapping, and data science firm in West Africa. 

Blog

Apply Here: Project Mountain Lion Hackathon for experienced developers, hackers

Project Mountain Lion Hackathon wants you!

Two African engineers at Facebook have partnered with the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation to host the Project Mountain Lion Hackathon for experienced developers this November, in Sierra Leone. 

However, the application and selection process starts now

Abdoul-Kader Keita and Patrick Taylor work as engineers at Facebook where they develop infrastructure that is scalable, reliable, and efficient and they want to bring these skills to the continent. Project Mountain Lion is a hackathon that will bring developers together with a goal to solve tangible problems in society. This particular hackathon will seek to make school registration faster and easier for students in Sierra Leone. 

On a recent trip to Freetown, Taylor learned that thousands of students in Sierra Leone queue for several hours to register for classes. He estimated that a student could spend up to 4 hours on average in line waiting to register, in a school of 500. If you’re a developer and you want to fix this problem then click here to join the Project Mountain Lion. 

You will complete a short test, and if you pass that test, you will be invited to participate at the next level. In the end, 30 hackers in Sierra Leone will be invited to the Project Mountain Lion Hackathon on November 9, 2019, at the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI). There they will work with Engineers Keita, Taylor, and others from DSTI to improve student registration in Sierra Leone. 

Challenge accepted? Click Here for Admission!

Blog

Notice for Expressions of Interest for Drone Corridor Project; Engineering and Construction Works

The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) sits in the Office of the President and executes its functions through the Office of the Chief Minister. The Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) serves as an Adviser to the President and Chief Minister of Sierra Leone.

Our Vision

To use science, technology and innovation to support the Government of Sierra Leone to deliver on its national development plan effectively and efficiently; and to help transform Sierra Leone into an innovation and entrepreneurship hub.

Background of the project

Drone technology is an area that DSTI is taking a lead to develop in Sierra Leone. With support from partners DSTI is currently developing a drone take-off and landing field for testing of drones and drone use cases. Drones have already been used to solve problems in Sierra Leone in applications such as disaster risk reduction. Further applications that the drone facilities will develop include mapping/imagery for analytics (education), cargo delivery – small & large payload and connectivity solutions.

For the purposes of designing and constructing the drone take-off and landing strip, DSTI is currently seeking qualified and capable companies to offer design and build services for the said facilities. 

  1. Site description

The site is located at the Njala University Mokunde Campus, situated adjacent to the University Secretariat Building. The site parcel size is 21.7 acres. The soil from visual observation is loamy soil. The topography of the site is that of a relatively uniform level throughout. The land has recently been cleared of elephant grass and some shrub growth.

The site is located at the end of a 390m graded, dirt road leading off from the main Njala University Junction; Njala University Junction is at the end of a smooth bitumen road that is approximately 2.5Km from the main Bo-Tiama highway.     

  1. Work Lots

DSTI and partners have embarked on preliminary works at site including topographical surveys, development of site plan, and site clearance.

The following services are needed of qualified and capable companies to offer design and build services;

Request for Proposals.
Lot 1Design, Construction & Commissioning of Container Office Area of Container Office Area
Lot 2Design, Construction & Commissioning of Solar Energy System for Container Office
Lot 3Design, Construction & Commissioning of Power Transmission and Distribution on Drone Corridor Site.
Lot 4Design, Construction & Commissioning of Water, drainage, waste and recycling facilities
Lot 5Design, Construction & Commissioning of Landscaping and security fence
Competitive Tender.
Lot 6Design, Construction & Commissioning of Drone Runway and Saddle

Lots 1 – 5 will be awarded via competitive RFP process between the top 5 shortlisted companies.

Lot 6 will be awarded via competitive tender process between the top 5 shortlisted companies. 

  1. Criteria

The Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation is currently accepting Expressions of Interest from qualified and capable companies to offer design and build services. Interested companies must submit the following documents via email only to proposals@dsti.gov.sl 

  1. Expression of Interest Letter
  2. Detailed Company Profile
  3. Valid Sierra Leone Business Registration Certificate
  4. Certificate of GST Registration (if applicable)
  5. Certificate of National Revenue Authority Tax Clearance Certificate
  6. CVs of Project Manager and Lead Engineers
  7. Practicing Certificate for 2019 from the Sierra Leone Institution of Engineers

All submissions to proposals@dsti.gov.sl  should be made by Friday the 4th of October, 2019. Shortlisted applicants will be contacted by Monday the 7th of October.

Blog

Sierra Leone will use DNA tests to help save crops, and investigate crimes- here is how

Sierra Leone’s researchers used the world’s first hand-held nanopore DNA sequencer, the MiniION to do DNA tests at a 3-day hands-on learning workshop at Njala University. 

Before now, the only way local scientists could test DNA was to take their samples to foreign countries. It was costly and inefficient. 

The team of scientists who facilitated the workshop was led by Dr. Laura Boykin, an expert in plant biology and computational science. Dr. Boykin’s journey to Sierra Leone began at the 2019 TED Conference in Vancouver where she and other TED Fellows met with President Julius Maada Bio. Dr. Moinina Sengeh, also a TED Fellow and Sierra Leone’s Chief Innovation Officer was part of that meeting in Vancouver. Both Dr. Sengeh and Dr. Boykin said they were inspired by President’s Bio call for the use of science for development. They continued conversations, and that led to the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) organizing the technical workshop in Sierra Leone.

A group of scientists, researchers, and academics learning DNA sequencing techniques

Scientists, academics, and researchers from DSTI, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Njala University, Crime Scene Investigators of the Family Support Unit (FSU) at the Sierra Leone Police, and the Sierra Leone Agriculture Research Institute (SLARi) participated in scientific training. The training focused on applied and practical scientific methods, including basic pipette training, DNA extraction, DNA sequencing. A subset of the participants analyzed the data using standard methods and machine learning. 

DNA sequencing is the process used to determine the precise order of the four nucleotide bases adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine that make up a strand of DNA. MiniION Nanopore Sequencer is a mobile DNA/RNA testing device that performs biological analysis. According to the inventors of the nanopore sequencer – Oxford Nanopore Technology – the device is currently used for research into human genomics, cancer, microbiology, plants, and the environment in almost 100 countries. 

Dr. Laura Boykin – Senior TED Fellow & Plant Biologist at Njala University in Sierra Leone on September 17 2019 where she led a workshop on DNA sequencing

“Portable sequencing can help democratize science,” said Dr. Boykin

“The typical model is people fly from the UK or the US; they take the samples from here and use technology in their lab. That’s not empowering local people. We’re trying to get rid of this colonization of science.”

Beyond research, Nanopore sequencing provides rapid, meaningful information in the fields of healthcare, agriculture, food, and water surveillance and education. In Sierra Leone, the test cases will be plant pathology and the investigation of sex crimes.

Scientists at the workshop at Njala University also compared the results of the MiniION Nanopore DNA sequencing device to other Artificial Intelligence mobile apps and human experts for predicting cassava disease.

Out of a sample of 12 cassava plants, an evaluated Cassava AI App which works with mobile phones showed that 60% of the cassava plant samples had the Cassava Mosaic Disease. The App further revealed that 20% of the samples were infected with the Cassava Green Mite Disease, while 20% had no disease. However, the results and outcomes varied depending on the operating system of the mobile phones used to run the tests. When the same 12 samples were tested using Nanopore DNA Sequencing, the results showed that the AI App missed infections. Some samples that had reported negative by the App came back positive, and some samples that the app reported as having only Cassava Mosaic Disease had another infection.

“We are quite aware that 50% of the yield loss from our crops emanate from pests, weeds, and diseases,” said Dr. Alusaine Edward Samura, Plant Pathologist, Njala University. 

“You cannot effectively control those biotic stresses If you cannot identify the causative agent. Proper diagnostics leads to proper decision making in terms of providing solutions to mitigate the current problem.” 

In addition to helping plant biologists increase yield, DNA sequencing will also make it easier to investigate crimes, specifically sex crimes. Where a rape kit is collected, from a victim, DNA can later be used to match suspects with DNA left behind. 

The Family Support Unit deals with cases of sexual violence, domestic violence, child cruelty, and issues related to gender-based violence.

In 2016, Superintendent Mira Koroma, Head of the Family Support Unit, asked that the government finance a forensics lab to aid in the investigation of sex crimes. Three years later and the FSU still doesn’t have one. But with the Nanopore mobile DNA sequencing, they don’t need a lab, and for just $3000 they can test DNA evidence. 

“This workshop was an excellent demonstration of inter-agency collaboration between SLARI, MAFS, Njala, DSTI, and others,” said Dr. Sengeh. 

“The President challenged DSTI to bring the best from around the world to Sierra Leone so that we can learn and co-create to address our challenges and to fast track our national development. We are doing just that,” said Dr. Sengeh. 

At the end of the 3-day training, a device set was donated to Njala University where research scientists in Sierra Leone will continue to use the MiniION device for DNA extraction, sequencing, and analysis for other cash crops like cocoa, coffee, and to be used in crime investigation.

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