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