It is no doubt that impactful innovation is not done in isolation of the problems it solves, surrounding processes and accompanying open space for exhibiting and building partnerships. Filling in these gaps that have existed in Sierra Leone, the UNDP Sierra Leone, led by Country Director Sudipto Mukherjee has been driving such innovative space for young people with different backgrounds, interests, ideas and initiatives for social good. This unique space UNDP leads, continues to drive young entrepreneurs and innovators all around the country. Not surprising, the impact of the innovative space being created by UNDP was acknowledged by Salton Massally, iDT Labs Chief Technology Officer and first winner of the award in 2013: “This award played a pivotal role in helping me develop. The youth innovation award organized by UNDP showed me the way and provided me with a platform to drive boundaries. Winning the first award was a turning point in my life.”
Sierra Leone’s population of 6 million people – 70 percent of whom are young — presents source of innovation, hope, resilience and power to transform communities. This sums up the transformative efforts of UNDP, its shrewd leadership Sudipto Mukherjee, iDT Lab’s Salton Massally, Deputy Vice Chancellor FBC and panelists in this year’s Social Good 2015 Summit held at the Mary Kinsley Auditorium, Fourah Bay College. This one day summit convened by the UNDP under the theme “Post Ebola Recovery and Sustainable Development: – brought together 12 participants and over 200 members of the audience.
In the words of Sudipto Mukherjee, in his welcoming note “Information Communication Technology is the combination of youth power and technology is extremely potent and if used for social good can be transformative”. He called on young people to innovate and solve problems in their communities. He reminded young people of their potential and how they could champion Sustainable Development Goals that Sierra Leone, an emerging nation, profoundly needs. Mr. Mukerjee noted that technology and new media plays a central role in young people’s lives, giving them voice where there was none before. He added that “‘while the good news is that they are using technology and new media – the challenge is to inspire them to use it to change their world in a positive way. In other words, using technology and new media to unleash the power and creative spirit of young girls and boys for Social Good.”
“Before we came in, the management of ERWs was in its simplest terms a challenging one. The management of ERWs and payroll was defined by weak access, delays, corruption, and general dissatisfaction. The system we developed automated every related ERWs record, contracts, previously manually managed and stored in shelves” were the words of Leslie Gordon Browne Project Manager, iDT Labs– sharing the role that iDT Labs played in digitizing the payroll of over 30,000 Ebola Response workers.
The climax of the summit woke up the innovative genius in young people from all over Sierra Leone presenting innovative ideas and inventions for a star prize of $2,000. Innovative solutions on energy, e-learning, techhubs, and alternative healthcare delivery were unleashed by energetic young people with an amputee Archippus T. Sesay from Makeni emerging as winner with his artificial low cost limbs for amputees using local materials.
The programme was splendid and indeed UNDP Sierra Leone with its astute Country Director Sudipto Mukherjee, is awaking the innovative genius in young people. We hope to see other actors in the International system emulating the impactful work of UNDP Sierra Leone.