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Internships in Sierra Leone

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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.

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Njala University student writes code for his country: how an intern’s grit earned him a role in the Office of the President

Sierra Leone’s Office of the President (OtP) will soon launch a new online invitation platform that will help the government manage and respond to invitations for President Maada Bio. The development of this OtP Event Invitation system was led by Foday S.N. Kamara, a 25-year-old intern at the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI).

Foday, a final year Njala University student was the first intern to join DSTI when the office was commissioned last year. He says that it was the 2003 film, “The Italian Job”, that sparked his interest in coding and algorithms. In one epic scene in the movie, Actor Seth Green’s character Lyle writes code to develop a new algorithm to override the traffic light system in LA to allow his crew to make a getaway after a major heist. This scene made Foday wonder what else he could do with algorithms. He borrowed books from a relative and taught himself to code. That was 16 years ago. Today, he is a final year Computer Science & Information Technology student at Njala passionate about writing code to support his country’s digitization efforts.

Before he joined DSTI, Foday had been developing an early warning SMS disaster response system to alert citizens of emergencies. In 2017 a mudslide, caused by heavy rains, and deforestation killed over 1000 Sierra Leoneans in just one day. That catastrophe inspired him to develop a solution that would reduce casualties during emergencies. Data for decision making, effective service delivery and citizen engagement are part of DSTI’s key strategic pillars.  Citizens need digital services that will enhance their lives and improve interaction with government.

When given the opportunity, he immersed himself and made a home at DSTI. Although just an intern, his commitment and attitude to problem-solving made him the Directorate’s first ever employee of the month in January. He was part of a team of scientists that are developing a prototype fleet management system that will allow the government to keep better manage its vehicles. Last year DSTI scientists revealed that illegal transfers of vehicles cost the state over $1 million dollars.

DSTI staff often play football, make music and dance #ShakuShaku together in the office. Yet Foday reflects that problem-solving sessions with Dr. David Sengeh, DSTI’s Chief Innovation Officer will be most memorable of his time at DSTI;  

“Most times when we have difficulties we complain. We say, ‘doc I’ve tried everything but its not working’. He’ll just tell you that you need to fix it, you should fix it. Several times we asked the same questions and get the same response. It’s fun. I thought why should we be asking , why can’t we get it done before we complain.”

Over the last six months since its launch, DSTI has trained several interns from Sierra Leone’s universities and high schools. Monjama Alpha, the top Physics and Engineering first year student at Fourah Bay College; Joseph Jawa Kebbie, a high school graduate from Christ the King’s College in Bo, and several students from Institute of Public Administration (IPAM) have learned to code and build systems alongside full time staff. DSTI offers these kinds of internships, fellowships, and externships for students, post-grads, and professionals who want to build the solutions that will transform Sierra Leone into an innovation nation.

For more information about opportunities at DSTI please contact us.

Check out Foday’s story in our first podcast from the lab.

 

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