It gives us immense pride to announce that our co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Salton Massally, has been selected as a Queen’s Young Leader for 2017!

The Queen’s Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. Winners of this prestigious Award receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK during which they will collect their Award from Her Majesty the Queen. With this support, Award winners will be expected to continue and develop the amazing work they are already doing in their communities.

Salton is recognised as a business leader and tech innovator in the West African region, for his exemplary work at the intersection of technology and social impact in Sierra Leone.  At 21 and a self-taught programmer, he rejected lucrative job offers from well-known multinationals to co-found iDT Labs, a startup that leverages technology to address challenges of inclusion and service delivery to the under and un-served majority of the population of Sierra Leone.

He is the brain behind the job search platform Careers.sl; using his own money to build and run the service because he believed that people in the rural areas and those who could not afford to buy daily newspapers for job ads were at a disadvantage. With Careers.sl, everyone country-wide in Sierra Leone can now easily search for jobs using not only computers but easily accessible mobile SMS.

Salton employs young techies from local universities and pairs them with techies in Pakistan and Nairobi as a way of facilitating peer-to-peer learning to develop the human capital of Sierra Leone. To promising techies, he helps finance their education while providing them with an opportunity to work part-time and gain practical experience. He also runs a hub where those without access to computers and the internet can come to be tech literate. Recently, Salton partnered with the Aurora foundation to distribute free laptops to young promising youth, and focused primarily on training women techies. To date, he has helped in training and equipping hundreds of youths.

What most underlines Salton’s commitment to making a difference in his community was during the height of the Ebola crisis, when the problem of delay in the distribution of hazard payment had led to continuous strikes by the Ebola Response Workers that was threatening to derail the national response to the epidemic. With treatment centres being left unmanned and dead bodies piling up on the roads, Salton and his team worked on an innovative solution which combined inclusive finance, public health, and governance expertise to solve this crisis. At that time unsure of  any form of reimbursement and compensation for his work, Salton froze all of his existing paid projects and shifted all the resources of his young startup to developing a tech-based solution to the problem. Notwithstanding the risk to his health, he also led his team into Ebola hot zones and treatment centres to ensure that all health workers and volunteers risking their lives were being included in the hazard payment scheme. The impact of his work was detailed in a case study by the Better than Cash Alliance, UNCDF which showed that the government saved 10.7 million dollars (the equal of Sierra Leonean’s annual free health care budget), thousands of lives by preventing the strikes of Ebola Response workers, shortened hazard payment times by a least a month, and saved workers approximately 80,000 USD in travelling costs.

Commenting on the award, Salton had this to say:

It is a source of great honour to me to be selected as one of the Queen’s Young Leaders for 2017. The exposure, mentorship and networks that this programme provides would help me and my amazing team at iDT Labs to further fuel and grow the nascent ecosystem of technology and innovation that we are driving in Sierra Leone. Our main focus has always been to create solutions that address some of the most pressing needs that our country faces, and this programme would help us immensely in realising our dream.   

Being selected as a Queen’s Young Lead will go a long way in helping me to realise my dream of seeing Sierra Leone as a 21st century success story on the immense potential of tech as a tool for social and economic development.