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We are thrilled to announce that iDT Labs has been declared the winner of the International Disaster Relief (Small Company) category at the Business in the Community’s 2016 Annual Responsible Business Gala in London on the 11th of July 2016!

Driven by the UK based charity Business in the Community (BITC), HRH The Prince of Wales’ Responsible Business Network, the Responsible Business Award recognises the few companies in the world that are creating a profound positive impact in society.

We were recognised for our work in creating a mobile based hazard payment and issue redressal system for 30,000 Ebola Response Workers, a solution that helped prevent the collapse of the healthcare system in Sierra Leone at the height of the Ebola crisis in 2014.

A recently commissioned report[1] by the UNCDF showed that our work helped achieve an impact of :

  • Cost savings of US $10.7 million for the government, taxpayers, development partners and response workers – the equivalent of funding Sierra Leone’s Free Health Care Program catering for 1.4 million children and 250,000 pregnant women annually.
  • Reducing payment times from over one month on average to one week.
  • Preventing the loss of around 800 working days per month from the Ebola response workforce, helping save lives during this critical time.
  • Saving response workers around $80,000 per month in travel costs by avoiding lengthy journeys to cash payment centers.

Our Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer, Salton Arthur Massally, when asked for a response to this achievement remarked that,

“what began as a dream to help alleviate societal and developmental challenges in my community using technology is fast growing into a reality and I am lucky to have been in a position from which I could help when my country needed me the most. For us it surpassed being a job of delivering on our baseline targets and was a fight for the future of our country. However, in the midst of our celebrations as a young company that our work is being recognised, let us not forget who the real heroes of the fight against Ebola were. Those brave men and women who risked all, many did lose all, to serve as frontline workers during the response when they could have more understandably looked the other way; they cared for the infected, traced chains of transmissions, and ensured safe burial for the dead and formed the backbone of what was the Ebola Response.”

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Salton Massally, CTO iDT Labs

At iDT Labs, we are passionate about using tech based solutions to solve some of the most pressing challenges that developing countries currently face. At the same time, we are aware that a lot of supposedly ‘well-meaning’ projects in the ICT4D space fall way short from their intended impact. While this failure is often due to challenges with implementing tech based solutions in difficult and often conflict-ridden environments, unfortunately, quite a number of individuals are also guilty of befuddling their investors with lofty ideas about just how far pure tech-based solutions can go in solving complex, multi-faceted issues.

We strongly believe that more than using the latest tech stacks and buzz-words, often, the most effective solutions are the ones that rely on simple technology integrated properly with the existing structures on the ground and a fundamental understanding of the local context. During the Ebola crisis, we were tasked with rolling out a payment processing and biometric verification system for the 30,000 Ebola Response Workers (ERWs) across the country. Having not been paid for several months, and with rampant corruption being reported across the disaster relief efforts on the ground, the payment crisis with the ERWs was threatening to derail the entire international relief efforts of preventing Ebola from turning into a global epidemic. While heavily leveraging existing open source solutions in our solutions, a bigger contributing factor to our success was our deep understanding of the local context and our constant communication with all the stakeholders and beneficiary groups involved.

If leveraged properly, technology can truly usher West Africa in a new state of economic progress, serving as an important economic driver. However, while it is natural to get excited at an upcoming “West African IT Renaissance”, it is equally important to not lose focus of the bigger picture, and to ground our lofty plans with the realities of the sub-region. Tech is not the “one-all” solution to all of the continent’s problems and should only be seen as a means to an end. Fixing issues like poverty alleviation and youth unemployment will take decades, yet there is ample reason to believe that with the proper guidance, support and intentions, technology can play a vital role in improving the lives of billions of people around the world. Our young team at iDT Labs is excited at playing its small role in pushing the needle forward in eradicating one of the most pressing issues that have faced humanity in recent times and we will continue to champion both the adoption of open source technology by West African governments and the role ICT can play is societal and developmental progress.

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