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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

Blog

Government of Sierra Leone’s open source initiative “OpenG2P” developed during COVID-19 announced as a UN Digital Public Good

The UN-based Digital Public Goods Alliance adds OpenG2P as a digital public good in alignment with the Digital Public Goods Standard.   Bootstrapped by a dynamic group of innovators at the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), Government of Sierra Leone, “OpenG2P” emerged out of the 2014-2016 Sierra Leone Ebola Payments Program, and is developed as a set of open-source building blocks to help Governments worldwide digitize their social protection programs. 

In today’s Covid-19 pandemic, accelerating cash transfers is the single most important response to getting assistance in the hands of frontline workers and vulnerable groups in a timely and transparent manner.  However, many governments across the world are hampered by limited interoperability within their nascent digital infrastructures such as identity, payment ecosystem, and social protection enrollment systems. OpenG2P creates a framework to digitize cash transfer programs through a set of open source, free to use, digital solutions that build on existing infrastructures to address country-specific gaps. 

Dr. David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer of DSTI and one of the architects of OpenG2P said; “Mobilizing cash transfers and payment of beneficiaries through digital bank accounts and mobile wallets is not the singular magic potion that solves governments’ Covid-19-related social protection challenges. But it is a critical step to ensuring that the right people get the resources they need in a transparent way. This is why today we are proud to be recognized for our work within government and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The ultimate goal of OpenG2P is to provide a seamless solution that helps governments increase the efficacy of their economic relief, maximize choice for their citizens, and improve financial inclusion while protecting their right to data privacy and informed consent.

“These complexities around implementation will be solved by building a collaborative cross-sectoral ecosystem that can continually verify, enroll and pay with improved transparency, accountability, and choice for citizens,” said Mr Salton Massally who is the technical lead and architect of OpenG2P.

OpenG2P is also selected as one of the 7 key projects along with MojaLoop, Mifos, and MOSIP by the Alliance’s Financial Inclusion Community of Practice to help advance the Secretary General’s digital cooperation roadmap to achieve greater financial inclusion and meet the sustainable development goals by 2030. As such, Paul Maritz, a seasoned early stage open source investor, will provide catalytic co-funding for the reference implementation of OpenG2P in Sierra Leone through the Digital Inclusion Foundation

DSTI collaborated with key partners Mifos, DIAL and iDT Labs on OpenG2P through voluntary non-financial contributions of James Dailey and Ed Cable of Mifos, Salton Massally and Keyzom Ngodup Massally as independent advisors.

Blog

The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation and EDACY to Launch Digital Skill Program for the Public Servants

November 4th 2020 – The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) of Sierra Leone and EDACY launch a digital skills program – “Digital Foundations for Public Service Program” to provide Sierra Leone government employees with access to digital skills training.

COVID-19 has altered the technological landscape of many industries. Digital technology is now the centre of operation for many industries. In light of such transformations, there is a pressing need for public servants to upskill or re-skill in order to have the necessary digital skills and digital mindset to contribute in building and fostering opportunities in the public initiatives during and post-COVID.

His Excellency the President, Dr. Julius Maada Bio’s Human Capital Development Agenda aims to equip and enable Sierra Leoneans to acquire the necessary skills sets that would make them competitive in the twenty-first-century workforce and global economy. In support of this, DSTI in partnership with other government stakeholders has identified the upscaling of the public sector workforce as essential for much-needed capacity building and preparation for the ‘Future of Work’ in government services.

In this regard, DSTI has partnered with EDACY to provide an opportunity for public servants in Sierra Leone to undertake and earn a certification on Digital Foundations for Public Service. 250 participants will be part of a first phase and the possibility to expand to more public servants will be discussed before phase one resumes.

Michala Mackay, the Director and Chief Operating Officer of DSTI, asserted that, 

continuous learning and capacity building in the public sector is a must in order for Sierra Leone to drive a robust innovative agenda. Opportunities of this nature are welcoming as the knock-on effect in institutional strengthening and ultimately improved government service delivery is assured …

Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer and Sierra Leone’s Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education also added, 

 As policy leaders in the 21st century, we need the right skills, language and acumen to solve the very complex problems we face today. While these problems often transcend technology, innovation is critical for developing impactful solutions. This is why we see very senior government officials including cabinet ministers and heads of agencies showing interest in these programs 

Said Temitope Ola – Founder and President, EDACY.

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 collaborate with the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) of Sierra Leone and support their employees’ capability development. 

EDACY, in partnership with the Swiss Institute of Technology (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne – EPFL), created the Digital Foundations for Public Services – 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.

Government employees who participate in the program will be able to improve their organization’s processes, service delivery and operations for digital. They will also be able to explore and find new tools and technologies for their current organization’s challenges and to identify new solutions and ways to accomplish their work and day-to-day tasks.

About EDACY

EDACY is a fast-growing Swiss-based Edtech company that partners with leading universities and top global product companies to develop and offer certified short online courses to upskill the workforce for the 4th Industrial Revolution and shape the future of public services. (www.edacy.com)

Register Here: https://rb.gy/rnpfh2

Blog

Sierra Leone joins Africa’s tech nations to deploy drones for COVID-19 Response

Drones flew over the capital city of Freetown during a three-day lock-down in March as part of Sierra Leone’s COVID-19 Response. The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) collaborated with a local drone company to capture images to understand citizen compliance in the Western Urban and Western Rural districts during the lock-down.

In West Africa, Sierra Leone has the sub-region’s only national government drone corridor which was launched in November 2019, by H.E. Julius Maada Bio in partnership with UNICEF, and Njala University. Since then, the nation’s first certified female drone pilot graduated from the Africa Data and Drone Academy’s (ADDA) drone certification program at Malawi University of Science and Technology, aerial drones have been used in medical deliveries, and now for COVID-19 emergency response activities.

Countries in Africa that have embraced innovation are integrating technological solutions in their COVID-19 Response. This week Rwanda used drones to spread public health awareness messages. In South Africa, Artificial Intelligence and drones are collecting data on citizen movement and lockdown measures. Similarly, in Tunisia, police robots equipped with AI capabilities are manning the streets as part of their compliance monitoring strategies.

Sierra Leone’s DSTI has the vision to use science, technology, and innovation to support government service delivery and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem. DSTI is currently deploying its scientists and technologists to support the Government’s integrated COVID-19 Response.

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

Sierra Leone designs online portal to take long wait out of teacher recruitment

A new teacher recruitment portal developed at the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) will make it easier and faster for education administrators to hire teachers, and allocate teachers to classrooms. The Teacher Application, Approval, and Allocation Portal (TAAAP) upgrades Sierra Leone’s paper-based teacher recruitment processes, including application, approval, and allocation system.

“We created this digital one-stop-shop Teacher Application, Approval, and Allocation Portal (TAAAP) to help streamline how schools receive the teaching staff they need,” said Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer.

The portal decentralizes the teacher recruitment process giving teachers and administrators access to resources for professional development, grant information, school data, and education best practice research and the latest education policies developed by the government of Sierra Leone. It also limits clerical or eligibility errors in the application process which often can be hard to detect thereby improving efficiency.

“Before, if you wanted to hire teachers, each application needed to be reviewed and signed manually by several people. A physical paper application had to be moved across the country between three different agencies. Five copies of each application were signed by both the Minister and Chair of the Teaching Service Commission. This process can often take more than six months. Many applications have been destroyed and lost in past years, leaving thousands of applicants waiting in vain for decisions that will never come,” said Dr. Sengeh.

With TAAAP, teachers can find and apply for jobs online, they can track the status of their applications, and the school administrators can see where there is a need for more teachers and make the necessary allocations. School administrators can post public job openings for all to apply to, and once reviewed and authorized, the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) can then approve the prospective hires automatically linking the records to other systems of the Ministry and TSC. Each listing is live for at least one month, and schools receive all approved hires for final selection.

The Ministry of Basic and SeniorSecondary Education and the Teaching Service Commission will adopt the portal in the implementation of Sierra Leone’s flagship Free Quality School Education Program over the next five years. Since 2018 the government of Sierra Leone has committed 21% of its annual budget to education spending to bolster human capital development. President Bio launched the National Innovation and Digital Strategy (NIDS) in November – a promise to leave no citizen behind, and a commitment to use digitization to improve the delivery of goods and services to citizens. The portal ensures that no prospective teacher applicant is left out of the recruitment process.

Citlali Trigos-Raczkowski demos TAAAP at State House – Freetown – December 2019

“We’re trying to increase transparency. Anyone that saw an application will be able to track its movement from one agency to the next. They can see who reviewed the application and who approved it. Applicants will also be able to see where their applications are at all times, whose dashboard it’s on, who has reviewed it already, and they can see when they’re going to get a response,” says Citlali Trigos-Raczkowski.

Trigos-Raczkowski, an MIT graduate with degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science, led the creation of the portal with other staff at DSTI and the Teaching Service Commission. Trigos-Raczkowski is a full-stack developer, interested in the intersection of social good and technology. As an intern at the Human Capital Development Incubator at DSTI, she worked with the team to develop the portal making it easier for citizens and decision-makers to track otherwise cumbersome recruitment processes.

“Each application leaves a digital footprint, and the portal shortens the process of teacher recruitment,” says Trigos-Raczkowski.

The portal allows for on-the-go tracking for everyone involved, high-scale authorization and authentication, and mobile-first access.

“There is a lot of back and forth and paperwork that takes up much of our time. Imagine having to sign 5000 applications from 5000 applicants each application with a total of five forms, making it 5000 times five; it’s just too much. But now, with this portal, we can take action to improve recruitment with the click of a button,” said Sorie I. Turay, Secretary, Teaching Service Commission.

Staff at Teaching Service Commission and MBSSE are testing the portal which will be made live to the public in 2020.

Blog

No citizen left behind – Sierra Leone develops a smart new direction towards innovation

FREETOWN – Sierra Leone’s Directorate for Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) has unveiled a national vision to digitize the way the government manages its resources and how citizens receive services.

Dr. Moinina David Sengeh , chief innovation officer checks the 3D printer on stage for the launch of Sierra Leone’s National Innovation and Digital Strategy – 1 November 2019 at Bintumani Conference Centre in Aberdeen, Freetown.

President Julius Maada Bio officially launched the National Digital and Innovation Strategy (NIDS) in Freetown on Friday, 1 November. He hopes it will boost and quicken Sierra Leone’s human capital development.

DSTI, which celebrated its first anniversary this week, is the agency that provided the technical know-how for Sierra Leone’s plan to go from analog to digital over the next 3 to 10 years. The foundation for digitization under NIDS comes after eight months of consultation with government and civil society leaders, donors, international actors, and citizens. A delegation from Sierra Leone also took a learning tour to Estonia-recognized global leaders for state-led digitization and e-governance. 

“What I have learned in engagement with innovators, and technologists from MIT, TED and here within Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation is that if we are open to exploring new ideas, and innovatively doing things, we not only gain a better understanding of our development challenges but we also solve the problems affecting our people,” said President Bio. 

Sierra Leone has a population of 7 million, with 57% living in poverty. Out of 188 countries, it is ranked 184 on the United Nations 2018 Human Development Index. Other countries with the same GDP per capita rank better on the HCD Index. The country’s medium-term development plan notes that public service delivery does not meet the population’s basic needs for developing human capital. 

Over 55% of households in Sierra Leone own a mobile phone, and it is this fact that makes digitization plausible. Citizens can already access a DSTI Integrated Geographical Information System (iGIS) to retrieve information about public service infrastructure. With the iGIS Portal, citizens can use Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to send an SMS to the shortcode *468# to locate government services-‘find my nearest school,’ ‘hospital,’ or ‘local court,’ saving time and in cases of emergency facilitating life-saving interventions.

Sierra Leone is embracing digitization so that no citizen gets left behind. It hopes to have every national own a digital ID. All government employees, ministries, departments and agencies, and national assets will also be digitized. Banking and financial services will also be digitized-the latter already underway as of August when Sierra Leone became the first country to deploy blockchain digital ID platform to make financial services accessible to the unbanked. 

With NIDS, the government will better understand when, how, and where to provide services, and more importantly, which services will deliver the most impact towards the HCD. 

For the vision to become a reality, the government’s leaders must embrace the change, said the Chief Innovation Officer. 

One government agency already leading the way is Statistics SL – the agency that collects, stores, and analyzes demographic data to inform decision making. NIDS enables researchers at Stats to launch a Comprehensive Health and Epidemiological Surveillance System (CHESS)-a longitudinal study that will follow participants throughout their life. CHESS relies on e-ID to link data from health facilities to community-level information.

“We struggled to create the electronic identification system in other countries like Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Burkina Faso, India and Vietnam where we implemented CHESS for research,” said 

Sierra Leone’s Statistician-General, Professor Mallam O. Sankoh, a global expert on development research and data for decision making.

Sierra Leone’s government aims to be fully underway on its digitization journey by 2023. Over five million citizens already have a digital ID that unlocks with their thumbprint. DSTI has developed a fleet management system that tracks and manages government vehicles to stop the kind of loss that occurred in 2018 when thousands of cars belonging to the state went missing.

25-year-old Jane Williams from Cole Farm, who works at a local media company, said that to her digitization matters because of accountability.

“This will also give citizens peace of mind knowing we can use digital data to monitor officials in terms of corruption,” said Williams at Bintumani Conference Centre after the launch of NIDS.

“Sierra Leone doesn’t lead in many things, but today with DSTI and the launch of NIDS, we can say we lead with technology for development.”

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

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. 

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