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Sierra Leone Launches Digital Learning Hubs to boost skills Acquisition

5/11/21

The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI), in partnership with UNICEF, launches and officially announces the opening of the first Digital Learning Hub at the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM).  

The establishment of the Hub aims to address the existing challenge of skills gaps for young people and within the workforce by providing more digital learning opportunities.

It also aims to boost the acquisition and retention of in-demand skills for young people intending to enter the job market and cultivate improved learning outcomes for the current workforce.

The Learning Hub will provide a conducive workspace with free access to 30 computers and reliable internet connection. The Hub’s registered users will also have access to a wide range of digital learning content via the Learning Passport platform to help learners fully capitalise on opportunities. 

The Hubs will function on a day-to-day management procedure, and operations will be facilitated by an organisation with experience establishing and operating digital learning centers.

The roll-out of these hubs is set to optimise and redefine existing notions about education meaningfully. The course content of this initiative is tailored to reflect a viable alternative to traditional learning methods and aligns with the broader objective of advancing the Human Capital Development Agenda. 

The hub at IPAM will initially have the eUPSHIFT program available, but will later feature Drones and UAV courses (theoretical and practical), Graphics Design, Multimedia and other courses.

Lead Project Coordinator at DSTI, Salima Bah, sees a great deal of promise in this initiative.

`We can only meet the demands of the 21st-century workforce if we acquire the capacity and skill sets required. With the establishment of the first DLH we are providing an opportunity for young people who are looking to enter the workforce as well as current members of the workforce to acquire the skills sets to make them competitive in the global economy. Tapping into the industry and ingenuity of the workforce through unconventional means is clearly the hallmark of this initiative.’ – Lead Project Coordinator, DSTI, Salima Bah.

UNICEF Sierra Leone’s Innovation Specialist, Shane O’Connor, highlighted the progress made on Digital Innovation.

With the launch of the 1st Digital Learning Hub, we are making progress to deliver on UNICEF’s Reimage Education agenda. Making digital platforms, like the Learning Passport, and digital content, like eUPSHIFT, available in Sierra Leone, we are taking a step towards making digital learning be part of a basic basket of essential services for every child and young person.”

UNICEF Sierra Leone’s Innovation Specialist, Shane O’Connor

Echoing on the promise of the hub in transforming skills acquisition and overall professional development of citizens is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of IPAM, Prof. Samuel Nonie

We salute the efforts of DSTI and Unicef for breathing life into the aspirations of increased workforce development designed to foster job market competitiveness and reduce skills deficit. We are thrilled to host the first digital learning hub in Sierra Leone and we are certain that its use will be maximized to its fullest potential” – Deputy Vice-Chancellor of IPAM, Prof. Samuel Nonie

Want to know more about the Learning Hub or how to be a member? Go to https://www.dsti.gov.sl/project/

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NATIONAL YOUTH INNOVATION CHALLENGE

Generation Unlimited Sierra Leone (GenU SL), an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Youth Affairs supported by DSTI and UNICEF, aims to develop young people’s educational and entrepreneurial portfolio, is set to launch a NATIONAL YOUTH INNOVATION CHALLENGE.

The Generation Unlimited National Youth Innovation Challenge calls on young innovators to design solutions to improve education/life skills and youth unemployment. The Youth Innovation Challenge is intentional in situating youth as leaders and drivers of our country’s development and provides for new structures and mechanisms to accelerate the empowerment of youth which make up over 40% of Sierra Leone’s population. 

This innovative challenge directly aligns with the priorities and implementation of the revised National Youth Policy. The revised National Youth Policy (2020–2025) is rooted in the President’s vision and commitment to harness the potential of Sierra Leone’s youth population for national development. 

Minister of Youth Affairs, Mohamed Orman Bangura at the Launch of the GenU National Partnership Committee.

“Government remains committed to putting youths at the center of its development agenda. A National Youth Challenge represents our hope for a prosperous future in Sierra Leone pioneered by youths” – Mohamed Orman Bangura, Minister of Youth Affairs.

The National Youth Innovation Challenge aims to inspire, provide opportunities, and support young people between the ages of 12 and 25, especially those disadvantaged by poverty and lack the resources to bring their ideas and creativity to life. 

The National Youth Innovation Challenge welcomes young people between the ages of 12 and 25 regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, or disability to form teams and participate in the challenge.

Successful applicants will be invited to participate in Human-Centered design workshops. Following these workshops, the five most promising ideas will be selected and awarded a cash prize of  1,000 USD each as seed funding and provided with mentorship and technical support for project implementation. Projects selected should be completed by July 2022. In addition, a Pre-Bootcamp workshop will be hosted in December 2021. 

The two most promising solutions from Sierra Leone will be submitted for consideration in the Global GenU Youth Challenge.

Interested applicants can apply https://bit.ly/GenUSLYouthInnovation

Applications will be open from the 28th of October 2022, and the deadline for all submissions is the 27th of November 2022 by 5:00 PM GMT.

For more information, contact us via email at genunlimited_sl@dsti.gov.

Or by phone SMS/text the word GENU to 2080 on Orange or Africell for FREE 

More photos of the launch

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.

Blog

Sierra Leone’s Quarantine App Offers Real-time Data, Improves Citizen Service Delivery

A mobile application developed for the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Center (NaCOVERC) has made it easier for officials in Sierra Leone to track services at quarantine facilities. The Quarantine App can be used to log and track food delivery, date in and expected date out of quarantined persons, psychosocial support and other services in real-time.

Benjamin Davies, Research and Operations Manager, and Foday Kamara, Software Developer HCD Incubator DSTI have trained Quarantine Supervisors, Ops Coordinators, Field Managers, and all-district  ICT staff to use the Quarantine App which was developed with the support of DSTI partner Dimagi.

“Before this app was developed, one would have to log information in a book and then get a data entry clerk to enter it on a computer and then find a reliable internet connection to send that information to Freetown, ” says Davies.

The training sessions took place over thirteen weeks at District COVID-19 Emergency Response Center (DICOVERC) nationwide. 

”With the App, the moment monitors go to the site, enter the information, and click sync, the server makes the information readily available nationwide. It allows for real-time decision-making based on the facts on the ground at that particular moment,” says Kamara. 

Since the rollout of the app in July, there has been a significant reduction in complaints made by contacts in quarantine facilities. The Quarantine App is connected to the 117 Call Center so accurate information could be provided to persons in quarantine..

Over 11,144 people have been in quarantine so far according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation September 21 Situation Report on Covid-19.

Wilsona Jalloh, Acting Team Lead, Human Capital Development Incubator

”We would have had the App and the tablets with end-users earlier but the lack of flights and Covid-19 restrictions slowed down the rollout process, ”  said Wilsona Jalloh, Acting Team Lead, Human Capital Development Incubator. 

”We are thrilled to have collaborated with our global and local partners  to make our quarantined homes and centres easier to manage for our frontline workers, and more suitable for citizens affected by Covid-19.”

Since the outbreak, Sierra Leone has used technology to replace inefficient manual processes and in so doing strengthened the wider healthcare system and improve the national pandemic response.

Blog

Sierra Leone launches Online Travel Portal to Manage Passenger Safety During the Pandemic

Travel.Gov.Sl is Sierra Leone’s official travel registration portal for passengers arriving at or departing from Freetown International Airport. The ICT Covid-19 Response PIllar manages the site which processes travel authorisation and assists the Surveillance Pillar with contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government of Sierra Leone has reopened its national airspace to commercial flights after air, land, and sea borders were closed on March 22, 2020. Public health and aviation officials agree that one key way to build traveler confidence and continue to flatten the coronavirus curve is with increased testing.

Sierra Leone’s travel protocols effective July 22, 2020, require all passengers to apply for a travel permit from Travel.Gov.Sl. To receive permission to travel in or out of the country, each passenger must provide the following: A negative COVID-19 PCR lab test result issued no longer than 72hours before departure, proof of payment for a COVID-19 PCR test in Sierra Leone, and a completed public health locator form. Children ages two years old and younger are exempt from testing. Travel.Gov.Sl is the one-stop-shop that will process all requirements and issue travel authorizations.

Travel.Gov.Sl is available 24/7. Passengers can register and pay for their tests online and through mobile money. They can order a regular or premium test, with the latter offering appointment flexibility.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Sierra Leone the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation as the lead of the ICT Pillar of the National Covid-19 Emergency Response has worked with various Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, Local ICT experts and development partners to deploy digital tools to improve the fight against the coronavirus. Fix Solutions, a technology company has played a leading role in the design and deployment of the travel web application. 


From drones for surveillance during lockdowns to an e-pass solution to ease travel restrictions, and a COVID-19 Self-Check SMS and USSD Mobile Application; DSTI continues to champion Sierra Leone’s commitment to national innovation.

Blog

Sierra Leone goes live with SMS and USSD COVID-19 self-assessment mobile services

Sierra Leone has recorded its tenth case of COVID-19, less than a week after it ended a 72-hour mandatory stay at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. During the three-day lockdown, a team of local computer scientists and data engineers from the public and private sectors collaborated to develop technological solutions to enhance the nation’s COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts. 

The COVID-19 emergency tech response team made up of experts from the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI), UNICEF, the Emergency Operations Center, Ministry of Information and Communication, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, other government agencies and private sector partners developed and incorporated COVID-19 public health information into the Government of Sierra Leone’s *468# (*GOV#) Public Information System. 

They expanded the existing *468# (*GOV#) Government Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) platform to allow citizens to conduct a self-check against their symptoms; learn prevention tips; and get updates on Sierra Leone’s COVID-19 situation, including the number of cases, deaths, and the quarantine status. A complimentary SMS mobile application that offers users the same functionalities was also developed. 

Today DSTI and its partners are announcing that the *468# (*GOV#) Government USSD platform and its accompanying 468 SMS Service have been activated to make it easier for citizens’ self-assessment of their coronavirus risk and to access accurate and correct information on COVID-19 on any mobile phone device.

Fix Solution is the lead private sector partner on USSD mobile service delivery. Their Chief Executive Officer, Sorieba Daffae, was one of the first private sector partners to sign up to the national tech response. 

Sorieba Daffae – CEO – Fix Solution SL

“What the crisis has shown us is that we are on our own. While we have some external support, this is the time to mobilize local expertise. I reached out to DSTI to volunteer towards the COVID-19 tech response to ensure that we could speed up the national effort by leveraging our local market knowledge. Our core competencies are specifically around technology solutions for public service delivery. With the USSD and SMS self-assessment tools, we’ve been able to collaborate with epidemiologists and DSTI to assist with the telecommunications integrations,” said Daffae. 

In November 2019, President Julius Maada Bio launched the National Innovation and Digitization Strategy (NIDS) and the USSD Portal to engage citizens and to improve government service delivery. A central principle in NIDS is the development of hybrid technologies that work for everyone. 

“We are collaborating with partners across government and the private sector to deliver Sierra Leone’s unified technological response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SMS and USSD systems work with or without the internet, meaning that we reduce barriers to citizens’  access to information,” said Michala Mackay, Director and Chief Operating Officer, DSTI.

“We have also seen an increase in fake news across social media, which is causing anxiety and fear. Citizens can now use the USSD portal to verify news and get the most up to date information on the national COVID-19 situation.” 

According to the 2018 Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey, two out of every three Sierra Leonean households (77%) have access to a mobile phone, meaning that SMS and USSD-based solutions will reach both citizens in the urban centers and rural communities. 

The USSD and SMS solutions offer flexibility to ensure that citizens have access to accurate information, whether or not they are using a smartphone. For now, the USSD code *468# and SMS to 468 are only available to users on Orange, and Africell. Even as the USSD and SMS solutions for COVID-19 go live, citizens are reminded to report any and all emergencies to 117 the national helpline.

Sierra Leone has started a two-week partial lockdown that limits travel between districts and a national daily curfew that starts from 9 pm-6 am. During this period, in addition to the COVID-19 services, citizens can use *468# to access information on government facilities and services within their districts including ‘find my nearest hospital’, and others. The COVID-19 tech response team will continue to develop technology for crisis response.


SMS USSD Activation Tools & Frequently Asked Questions

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DSTI Sierra Leone announces new Director and Chief Operating Officer

Michala Mackay has been appointed as the new Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI).

Michala Mackay addresses the team at DSTI as Chief Operating Officer for the first time on 30 March 2020 at DSTI Office at State House in Freetown

Before joining DSTI, Mackay was CEO and Registrar of the Corporate Affairs Commission. Prior to that, she served as Director of Legal and Licensing Affairs at the National Telecommunications Commission. Her responsibilities amongst others included leading the legal team in negotiating  Sierra Leone’s agreement for the landing of its first fibre optic cable, a segment of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable.

Earlier in her career, she was the Legal Counsel and Regulatory Specialist at Celtel,  now Orange Sierra Leone. 

“It is such a critical time to be joining DSTI. Last year, Sierra Leone launched a medium-term national strategic plan. Although that plan is very broad in perspective and looks at eight clusters in total, the silver lining for all those clusters to be achievable within the desired time frame is to use science technology and innovation. DSTI is central to achieving our national goals and objectives,” said Mackay.

“Over the past year, as CEO of the Corporate Affairs Commission, I’ve had several engagements with the DSTI as we work to develop the framework to improve Sierra Leone’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report. I’ve been impressed with the talent here, and the culture of openness and excellence. I am eager to join this dynamic team to deliver H.E.’s vision to transform Sierra Leone into an innovative hub for technology and entrepreneurship.”

Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Moinina David Sengeh commented: “Michala brings 15 years of policy and management expertise from the ICT private sector, government and high-level partner engagement to DSTI. Her understanding of the global and local ICT landscape and her commitment to excellence aligns with the culture here at DSTI.

“She has led the Corporate Affairs Commission from its inception to where it is today–an efficient, technical and service-driven institution. Under her leadership, Sierra Leone’s Starting a Business Indicator improved significantly from 99 to 58 out of 190 countries in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report – all in just 3 years. With Michala at the helm, DSTI will also continue its mission to support our youthful, technical and energetic staff. She has an excellent rapport with the team already and this is critical for me. She will take DSTI to another level.”

The Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation, established in October 2018, has supported the inclusion and growth of women both in leadership and technical expertise. DSTI commits to at least half of its senior staff being female. It supports the government of Sierra Leone with accurate real-time data, analysis, and research to enhance decision making, technological solutions to improve service delivery and citizen service engagement, and mobilizes resources to build and strengthen the local ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation. 

DSTI collaborates with local and international leaders on technology and innovation, including MIT, Statistics Sierra Leone, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eGovernance Academy, UNICEF Sierra Leone,  UNDP, and Dimagi to deliver on its objectives.

The new Director and COO of DSTI has an MBA in Leadership and Sustainability from the University of Cumbria. She is a Barrister and Solicitor with a post-graduate diploma in I.T. and Telecommunications Law.

Blog

DSTI and Dimagi partner to create cutting edge tech solutions for COVID 19 Response

As Sierra Leone scales up its national response to COVID-19, the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation (DSTI) has announced that it will develop digital solutions with local and global partners to support frontline workers. 

The first of these collaborations will be between DSTI and Dimagi, Inc. – creators of CommCare, a powerful mobile data collection and service delivery platform. DSTI and Dimagi will develop digital solutions for contact tracing to contain the spread of COVID-19 and the distribution of public health messages for community education.

“The contagious nature of COVID-19 means that technology has a crucial role to play in breaking the chain of transmission. Furthermore, governments can use technology to remove redundant and inefficient processes to strengthen the wider healthcare system. DSTI is working on a host of other digital solutions and partnerships to support Sierra Leone’s efforts, including the use of USSD for communications with citizens,” said Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer, DSTI.

Sierra Leone currently has zero reported cases due to swift emergency measures put in place by President Julius Maada Bio. However, the government will continue to increase its preparedness by leveraging mobile technology for social impact. During the 2014 Ebola Outbreak, Sierra Leone used mobile money to disburse payments to frontline health workers nationwide, and a Public Health National Emergency 117 Call Centre served as a tool to document, track and provide follow-up on suspected EVD cases and deaths.

Using lessons learned from the Ebola response, DSTI and Dimagi will create a joint team to support the ongoing rapid development of a contact tracing mobile application specifically for COVID-19. This solution will decentralize contact tracing, and increase efficiency in resource mobilization, information dissemination, and comprehensive data collection. 

“As we saw during the previous Ebola outbreak in West Africa, digital technology can play a critical role in improving the impact of the outbreak response. Through this partnership with DSTI, we will leverage leading best practices in developing critical technology to rapidly respond to and curtail the impact of COVID-19 in Sierra Leone,” said Jonathan Jackson, CEO, Dimagi. 

This latest partnership with Dimagi along with others including MIT, Statistics Sierra Leone, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eGovernance Academy, UNICEF Sierra Leone, and UNDP underscores DSTI’s commitment to strengthen the local ecosystem for technology and innovation in collaboration with local and global leaders. 

Blog

How Sierra Leone’s tech agency is getting it right on gender equality

Lessons on inclusive leadership from the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation – International Women’s Day

Women at Sierra Leone’s agency for science and technology say policies implemented there have created a gender-inclusive workplace where they are empowered to lead.

29-year-old Glenna Wilson studied computer science at Njala University. She got her first big break in her final year when a local bank in Freetown offered her an internship in its IT Department. When she started work, however, the all-male team treated her differently.

“Instead of teaching me what I was there to learn, they would ask me to make coffee, bring them food, and told me that as the woman, I had to be their mother. While the other male intern was easily accepted as part of the team.”

(L) Bineta Diop (Business Analyst) and (r) Glenna Wilson (Data Scientist) at the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation in Freetown – March 6, 2020

Wilson says she had to work hard to prove herself. She was motivated to show colleagues who doubted her abilities because of her gender that they were wrong.

“I would go downstairs and carry a system unit, bring it up to my office, open it up myself, get on my hands and knees and get dirty, to find solutions. In this way, I learned faster and in the end, I was asked to come and work after completing my dissertation.”

That was four years ago. Wilson joined the bank full time, and in a short while, she rose through the ranks to become the Database Administrator responsible for managing and administering the bank’s core banking system and database and support for all staff, and branches across the entire country. That’s where she was when the call came from the Chief Innovation Officer of the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) asking if she would like to join other talented young Sierra Leoneans to support the country’s drive to become a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. Wilson says the working conditions for women at DSTI are miles apart from where she once worked.

“DSTI has created a platform that encourages women more, pushes women more; and gives women opportunities for leadership roles. One of the best feelings is to come to work at DSTI, where I know I’m going to show that I’m a leader. I’m going to take charge,” says Wilson. 

She is a data scientist and technical lead for DSTI’s Integrated Geographic Information System (GIS) Portal, an interactive platform that links disparate GIS datasets from the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and its partners.

24-year-old Bineta Diop, who also joined DSTI in 2018, says that she was pleasantly surprised at the level of support and encouragement she received when she joined DSTI as an intern. This is her first job since she finished university.

“As a young woman, every day, I come to work in a place where my voice is heard. I’ve been encouraged to trust my voice and myself more. I went from being an intern to being absorbed full time and then actually being promoted to technical lead of one of the projects, and it’s just because I’ve been pushed to grow here.”

She went to the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom, where she studied Business Economics. When she returned to Sierra Leone in 2018, she wanted to work in government, so she applied for an internship at DSTI. Diop says that much of her work is engaging with local DSTI partners, and it is at those engagements; intra-government meetings that she’s reminded that the culture of inclusion and empowerment at DSTI is not the status quo.

In Sierra Leone, gender-based inequalities are most pronounced in reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity according to the UNDP 2018 Human Development Report. When the country’s Human Development Index is adjusted to reflect gender inequality Sierra Leone’s HDI falls from 0.438 to 0.282. The 35.7 percent loss in HDI shows that urgent improvements are needed towards women’s capital development.

“DSTI is a bubble. Sometimes I go to a meeting, and I’m the lead, but someone would doubt it and treat me as though I don’t belong. I’ve been asked if I wasn’t too young to be in a meeting. Other times I’m not given room to participate in a technical conversation, but because I remember that David believes in me. Even though it can be difficult sometimes, the encouragement I get at DSTI gives me the confidence to say no; I know what I’m talking about, and you’re going to have to listen to me,” says Diop.

She says that making the workplace more inclusive starts at the top. Change has to come from the people in leading positions.

“If David hadn’t made sure that women were data scientists, and in leadership, none of this would be possible. He has made it such a priority, so everybody else has to fall in line; everybody else knows that gender equality has to be guaranteed.”

Diop is a business analyst and the technical lead on the National Financial Digital Architecture Project, while she also supports the Ease of Doing Business Project at the Directorate.

DSTI Sierra Leone came into existence in May 2018 when President Julius Maada Bio appointed Dr. David Moinina Sengeh as the country’s Chief Innovation Officer. Dr. Sengeh says that right from inception he knew that for DSTI to achieve its mission it needed to be gender inclusive.  Now in its second-year, DSTI’s 41 person team is gender-balanced starting from its leadership, a startling accomplishment for a tech organization anywhere in the world. Half of the organization’s workforce is made up of women.

“We have evidence that more inclusive environments produce better results, so if you want to produce better results, you need inclusion in the workplace and all activities.”

“From day one, I had the opportunity to shape DSTI in policy statements. One of the most important of these was to say I want half of my leadership to be female,” says Dr. Sengeh.

“I made that so by then implementing the policy, and developing the strategy to get more women in top leadership. I made sure we expanded our reach and engagements, to get the quality women applicants. And when there were no women who applied, I knew it meant we didn’t work hard enough, so we would start the process over again.”

Such high-level commitment to inclusive leadership is what Human Resource Expert and Managing Partner of JobSearch Sierra Leone Edleen Elba agrees is needed to make the workplace gender-balanced. 

“Gender inclusion strategies should be part of Organizations’ wider diversity programs. These should include policies, training, discussions, and reporting mechanisms in the areas of recruitment, retention, performance management, learning and development, procurement, and workplace behavior. But don’t stop there. Guidance must also be provided that pushes for gender-neutral language, e.g., ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she,’ ‘person’ instead of ‘man’ and make the use of sexually offensive or sexist language a disciplinary offense.”

Dr. Sengeh says that to ensure that DSTI’s women thrive he looks beyond the number of women on the roster. 

“For lasting impact, we have to change the culture both internally and externally in society but especially, internally at work.”

“It means making sure that when women are at the table and in the room that we pass the mic for them to speak. Sometimes yes, as the leader, you may have to fight for this, but you must. In meetings, I have no problem stepping in if someone speaks over a female colleague or uses gendered endearments in the workplace. I fight for the women on my team, so they know we are in this together.”

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