Sierra Leone’s President Dr Julius Maada Bio has made a case for digital transformation for the public good, emphasising that it also will serve as a catalytic driver to sustainable development in the least developed countries.

President Bio made this statement while addressing the 77 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA77) in New York on Wednesday 21 September 2022.

“When Sierra Leone co-founded the Digital Public Goods Alliance in 2019, we affirmed the role that the least developed countries can play in digital cooperation. We believe that Digital Public Goods, being adaptable, interoperable, and transparent, facilitate collaboration. They can also be catalytic drivers for digital transformation and sustainability in developing and developed economies alike,” he said.

The President effectively used the Sierra Leone experience to testify to the value of secure digital solutions in times of crises, adding that they developed OpenG2P, a payment ecosystem to make bulk transfer payments to front-line workers that saved US$ 10 million in cash and touched many lives.

“Today OpenG2P is a digital public good that enables other governments and humanitarian agencies to identify, on-board, and deliver cash and noncash benefits to people. The Covid-19 pandemic has foregrounded the fundamental role that digital identity and government-to-person ecosystems play in delivering services to people rapidly, effectively, and responsibly,” he added.

President Julius Maada Bio, who believed that digital good would serve his country, set up the country’s first Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation in his office in 2018, adding that a few years later they were able to adapt and implement the DHIS2, a District Health Information System to capture data from hundreds of community health centres across the country.

“It has significantly contributed to strengthening the health sector by being the depository to which all data relating to covid 19 was streamlined and analysed. We will continue to be an active part of the global HISP-community that contributes back to DHIS2.

“A mobile app called ‘PRES Track’ has been designed to register pregnant women and pregnancies, monitor pregnancy-related complications, and ensure that pregnant women have adequate access to information, care, and services. We plan to share this solution as a digital public good with other countries that need to solve similar gaps in maternal and neonatal health,” he said.

The President further announced that his government was enthusiastic about the opportunities of digital public goods, which was why they supported the Digital Public Goods Charter as a joint mobilisation effort but also because it showed that countries, like Sierra Leone, could be leaders in international digital cooperation.

“We also realise the need to improve capacity to create, implement, and maintain digital solutions. We will therefore continue to work with researchers, entrepreneurs, youth and innovators to embed digital literacy, critical thinking, and other relevant courses in curriculums.

“With the support of our partners, we will continue to invest in local talent. We want to build a community of developers in Sierra Leone that will create new digital technologies in line with the DPG standards,” he concluded.

Credit: State House Media and Communications Unit