The Government of Sierra Leone is set to establish the first coding school, which will be one of the first in the continent. The Directorate of Science and Technology, in the Office of the Chief Innovation Officer, has, on Friday, 31st May, 2019, signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding towards the establishment of the school, which will be hosted at the Institute of Public Management and Technology Campus in Freetown.
Madam Kumba of the DSTI welcomed guests and the delegation from Orange to the DSTI Secretariat. She noted that coding is very essential to the development of a country as it involves critical thinking, visualization of problems, team work, devising solutions to problems, identifying problems and solving skills. These skills, she noted, are badly needed by our women and youths.
According to her, they have four strategic goals, which are data for decision making, eco system strengthening, service delivery and others.
She concluded by stating that they need more professionals in the field.
CEO Orange Sierra Leone, Aminata Kane, started by noting that this is the beginning of something they have long dreamt of together.
She added that, along with English, French and Krio, the youths and women of Sierra Leone can code. Coding is done in primary schools in America and Europe and even in Senegal, why not Sierra Leone?
Madam Aminata Kane disclosed that Orange is in a bid to transform Sierra Leone and create an enabling environment for the development of Information Communication Technology through its digital drive campaign.
The Orange CEO recounted that her company keeps on revolutionizing the environment digitally. The launching of the first Coding School in Sierra Leone, in partnership with the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation, is just one demonstrative example, she said. This for her embodies the company’s ambition of improving and supporting the innovation ecosystem in the country.
The launch of the Coding School program, Madam Aminata Kane disclosed, will once more resonates with Orange of being more than a telecoms operator.
“It will also demonstrate Orange’s commitment to its Corporate Social Responsibility, using digital innovation as its main driver in promoting social and economic development in Sierra Leone,” she said.
Orange’s innovation program, she further noted, is aimed at creating an innovative ecosystem that is centered on five pillars; including to initiate a strong coding universe ecosystem and push the latest technologies in the country; train young people at the coding school countrywide; support young people to develop technological solutions; incubate technical start-ups with their technological projects; accelerate and fund start-ups through Orange Fab and Orange Tech Clubs.
Dr Moininah David Sengeh –Chief Innovation Officer, Directorate of Science and Technology, welcomed all to the DSTI Court Barry where, according to him, they play.
He called on people present to remember the word ‘play’ when they talk about coding simply because of the work that is done at DSTI. Coding and learning to code, according to the CIO, helps a lot in solving critical issues in Government, such as the traffic problem and other complex problems. He recounted that school going children, professors, academics and other sectors of society should work towards developing solutions to help resolve complex problems.
Dr. David Sengeh stated that it takes time and collaboration and cited discussions he has had with the Orange CEO whiles they were in school with regards the future of Africa.
The job at DSTI, he continued, is intentional and mainly involves supporting ecosystems and also engaging in strategic research. He disclosed a number of academic engagements with the MIT and Harvard Universities.
He told the Orange delegation and others present that himself and Aminata Kane have a long standing relationship and that the DSTI is also engaging with other private sector groups and organizations and the donor partners such as the UNDP.
“At DSTI,” he concluded, “we are doing what we say we will do and will not be emulating what others have done in the last five to ten years.”
Artificial intelligence work and various print models are now being done at DSTI, he noted.
The coding training school is expected to provide a technological center that offers free training and entertainment for the community and young entrepreneurs in coding and soft skills targeting students, young graduates and young entrepreneurs.
The launch of the coding school will mark a long lasting relationship between the DSTI and several other programs outlined as Orange Sierra Leone’s contribution towards the Government’s ICT policy.
“As an institution, we are currently working with DSTI in finalizing the USSD App that will enable citizens to locate and give feedback on government services,” Aminata Kane disclosed.
The Government of President Julius Maada Bio has prioritized ICT and innovation as the engine to propel economic growth and job creation. The establishment of a Directorate for Science and Technology, with Sierra Leonean Dr. David Sengeh from IBM as the first CIO, was deliberate. The DSTI is expected to work with MDAs, paratstatals, the private sector and international academic institutions such as the MIT, Harvard and the Bill Gates Foundation to push through the Government’s innovation program.