WRITTEN BY JONATHAN HINDOLO KURABU, D CATALYST
His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Retired Brigadier Dr. Julius Maada Bio has after the launch of the First National Drone Corridor in Njala served as the first pilot to effectively utilize the 250m runway in the corridor.
The unmanned drone was for over five minutes controlled on air by President Bio with ease and to the amazement of dignitaries who graced the official launch in Njala University’s main Campus in Njala.
In his keynote address, president Bio said” we are indeed proud as a nation that is the first National Drone Corridor in W/A, but beyond pride, we are excited that we are putting innovative technology to the service of development because in my opinion technology does not serve the purpose if it doesn’t serve the people. Some people use drones to just play around, some create havoc but we are using it for a social purpose.”
Regardless the fact that we are a small nation yet President Bio went on ”we are doing big things thanks be to paopa”.
H.E. Bio furthered that as a nation, ”we can leapfrog the constraints of history, of infrastructure, geography to champion the small things that have a huge impact on our development agenda and to reach the last mile. We have already seen how technology is helping us streamline citizenship registration with implication for financial inclusion, public service delivery and the participation of citizens in the full life of our democracy. We have also used technology to streamline revenue collection, financial processes with implication for transparency and accountability in governance, we have used technology and data to plan and review policy interventions with implication for focused investment and better outcomes.”
Chief Innovation Officer and Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Dr. Moinina David Senge said skeptics have for long being of the opinion that because of our impoverished nature as a country, we cannot thrive in the world of technology. He said in harnessing the untapped potentials in the country, Sierra Leone will become a country in Africa other countries will emulate our innovative strides like how he has succeeded in transforming DSTI into the MIT of the world. He showered lots of praises on President Bio for believing in his dream and the future of the young generational innovative thinkers and challenged the Administration of Njala University to consider making Njala a centre of excellence for the 4th industrial revolution.
Responding, Vice Chancellor and Principal, Njala University, Professor Abdullah Mansaray described the launch of the National Drone Corridor as a celebration of the success of partnership among Directorate of Science. Technology & Innovation, (DSTI), the Civil Aviation Authority, UNICEF, Njala University and the local communities in Kori chiefdom.
The National Drone Corridor which he described as a cutting edge technology according to him will be of immense benefit especially for the local communities as it will serve for the delivery of life saving medical supplies, aerial imagery to prevent foods, mudslide and other hazards, disaster response, mapping and connecting schools, city planning, collecting critical agricultural data, monitoring and surveillance of mines, fish stocks, protected zones, among many other uses.
Having being challenged by President Bio during inauguration of The Njala University Court, to think big and to transform Njala into an institution that meets the challenges of the 21st Century, Professor Mansaray said the National Drone Launch is one of the many achievements and testaments of the tremendous strides taken under his leadership within this short time with the support of staff, and development partners in harnessing technology for national development, hence he is particularly pleased that such a remarkable technological revolution is happening under his leadership and again promised without fail to transform Njala into a centre of excellence for the 4th industrial revolution.
UNICEF Representative to Sierra Leone, Sulaiman Brima pledged UNICEF’S unflinching commitments to support the use of drones for social good and optimally to support the improvement of children. He commended President Julius Bio for his consistency in prioritizing science and technology and urged them to replicate the initiative to other parts of the country. ‘Drones can form a key part of the solution to save lives. ‘’UNICEF remains deeply committed to continue the partnership and support in any way” UNICEF Country Rep. reaffirmed.
The National Drone Corridor among others will provide multiple and ground breaking opportunities in for instance agriculture and food security, drone technology can provide a bird’s eye view of a farmer’s crop, spray fertilizers and insecticides more efficiently and also help the general crop monitoring and management. This will increase average acreage yields. Cash crop plantations can be more effectively monitored on air by drones, can help to monitor green cover loss and adequately anticipate general problems related to primate resilience and biodiversity loss a as result of human activities., extend the possibilities for teaching new curricula and new disciplines that are critical for national development from waste management, urban planning to infrastructure management to eco-tourism, drones can facilitate rapid delivery of medical supplies for pregnant women and help stem maternal mortality, vaccines and lifesaving medicines such as snake bites serum or deal for medical emergencies or otherwise inaccessible areas where there may be an outbreak of communicable diseases, help facilitate the transport of drugs. Help with area surfing, mapping in order to predict and act on possible developments among others.