“Technology is no longer an element of luxury, it has touched the majority of Basotho”

“It is urgent for government to offer infrastructure that is enabling to engage in technological advancement.”

National Technology Day 2023 is celebrated every year on May 11. This day is observed to commemorate the importance of scientists, research, innovation. This day is celebrated to raise awareness about the technology that is developed day by day. In Lesotho Malisema Mahloane talks to Lintle Letima, Technology Lead at GEM Institute.

GEM Institute is a community based social enterprise NGO & innovation impact hub in partnership with youth and women interrogating policy through research, promoting advocacy for active civic engagement, innovation through creativity, technological adaptation: incubation, acceleration and financing of social & cultural enterprises to break the cycle of inequality and unemployment building peaceful communities.

  1. Firstly, is there a need for National Technology Day to be celebrated in Lesotho? What is the need?

Lesotho is part of the community that appreciates technological invention, innovation and use. While Lesotho has not marked a day (like India which celebrates Technology annually on the 11th of May, it is important to amplify the necessity of technology in Basotho’s lives as a tool that improves livelihood experiences. The history of National Technology Day lies in India celebrating their advancement in nuclear technology. This should be motivation for Lesotho to recognize groundbreaking technologies that have or will change Basotho lives and thus call for us to have an annual national celebration.

  • How important is it for awareness to be raised about the technology that is developed day by day particularly for young female scientists? As a reminder for Basotho of all genders and ages who are from different corners of Lesotho, the development and advancement in technology lies with anyone. Raising awareness about the importance of technology as part of people’s lives is a necessity that prepares Basotho and Lesotho to be part of the global community in advancing technology that solves first Basotho challenges and problems as a contribution to global solutions.
  • GEM Institute aspires to be a leading social entrepreneurship and innovation hub that improves lives of youth, rural communities and schools as centres of excellence and models of peace. What do you suggest our country does such that GEM Institute can easily achieve this vision?

Even though technology has proved to be an undeniably important aspect of Basotho lives on a daily basis. The role of government is to put into place the policy and legislative framework and infrastructure that enables and protects Basotho from emerging problems brought by the use of any form of technology such as digital technologies for example. While there is the ICT policy (2005) the computer crime and cyber security and e-commerce bills remain pending to be signed off as ACTS. Therefore, Basotho are not fully protected. On the education side, it is urgent for government and its partners to offer infrastructure across the country that is enabling for students to engage and participate in technological advancement. There are a number of initiatives that the private sector and education sectors have been running, to boost these initiatives government needs to establish strong partnerships to work as a collective for national development.

  • With the ever constantly changing technology, do you think government is doing more to reinforce tech learning in all levels of education?

There are notable government initiatives that indicate a willingness to reinforce tech learning such as the recently launched Lesotho University Innovation Pod (UniPod) that will sit with Lerotholi Polytechnic supported by UNDP. Needed more is for government to have pipeline initiatives from primary to high schools that will prepare students, young people and women to fully participate in the UniPod. These can be achieved by partnering with other entities that are already hard at work for example LSMTA, Impact School, Nomvu Coding Academy, Girls Coding and GEM Institute to mention a few.

  • What initiatives has GEM Institute undertaken to safeguard today’s learners meet the demands of the future tech industry and how successful were they?

GEM Institute participates as the gender lead to address the gender digital gap

  1. Africa Code Week Programme that started in 2016 led by UNESCO Science Mathematics Engineering Federation (SMEF)-over 20,000 students and 450 teachers trained in coding. It proceeded to establish Girls in Tech Clubs in schools in 9 districts of Lesotho in 2019. The clubs have coauthored a two book series called Love at First Click on technology, climate change and creativity with GEM Institute selling on Amazon
    1. It launched the first annual Girl Tech Talk Conference in 2019 that saw 150 high school girls from around the country presenting their STEAM projects. Three other countries; Botswana, Ghana and Tanzania have participated in the conference in 2021
    1. The International ICT Day for Girls is hosted as a preconference for the Girl Tech Talk Conference. The purpose is to inspire and encourage girls and partners to encourage girls and women to be developers not only consumers of technology. This year we saw a high attendance in partners from government, institutions of higher learning and the private sector.
    1. For industrial development GEM Institute subsequently established a mentorship, coaching and incubation programme for young women in STEAM to start their own STEAM inspired companies/organisations. 4 companies/organisations led by young women have emerged from the programme.
    1. In 2021, to respond to climate change issues GEM Institute started the Green Arts and Technology Bootcamps and Awards (GATB/A) which focused on out of school youth to develop technology based solutions for Lesotho’s agriculture sectors and respond to climate change challenges.
    1.  A twin project to GATB/A is based in schools called Green Social Enterprise, Innovation and Research Hub Programme, that prepares students for the complex future of work that has elements of robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things.
  • Lastly, are you satisfied that our country is embracing the use of technology in its day to day operations and are we as a country moving at an acceptable pace?
    • Technology is no longer an element of luxury. It has touched the majority of Basotho through (communications) ICT and mobile money (FinTech). However, more needs to be done in improving the infrastructure and innovation of technology as a tool in education, indigenous knowledge systems, creative industries, health services, agriculture and service delivery. These sectors define Basotho lives and experiences on a daily basis, therefore deserve technological investment with youth and women at the heart of these advancements to close the employment gap and gender digital gaps to balance out societal challenges.
    • GEM Institute has won the ITU-WSIS Global award for using technology to promote cultural identity and diversity in 2022. In 2021 it was selected as one of the best 20 innovative organisations in Africa by African Union