In April 2020, The Gambia reported its 12th case of COVID-19 with 3 active cases. Within a month, the number has risen to 25 cases with 6 active. The slow rate of case identification resulted in heightened concerns and fear within communities. Expectedly, youth entrepreneurs and local innovators emerged with solutions in response to the pandemic. Several awareness campaigns were initially launched, and measures exemplified in other countries were adopted locally. Some key interventions we encountered include the creation of makeshift bucket-taps, production of hand sanitizers, homemade face masks, and plans to leverage on digital technologies for contact tracing. To capture these community responses and map emerging solutions, our journey led to stronger partnerships both within and outside the UN System.
Adopting health and safety measures
Supporting the production of homemade (cloth) face masks
Since nations across the world are adapting this basic line of defense as an additional layer of protection and reporting success, it is necessary that AccLabGM also incorporates these solutions into its pandemic response. With the scarce supply of medical resources, recommendations emerged from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WHO that promoted the use of non-medical (cloth) masks as a substitution to medical grade masks for non-health personnel.
Connecting through various networks, AccLabGM reached out to local entrepreneurs and institutions and formed strategic partnerships leading to the formation of a project to support youth and female entrepreneurs to produce and distribute cloth masks. Together, with current efforts of the International Trade Centre (ITC), the Ministry of Health and WHO, funds and approaches are integrated to help scale, standardize and ensure quality control whilst providing income generating opportunities particularly, for vulnerable businesses and female entrepreneurs. Our implementing partner, Mbolo Association is leading the coordination efforts to ensure quality control and awareness raising on the hygienic use of the masks before distribution to the general public particularly, the most vulnerable population.
Community responses and proposed interventions
KMC Mayor GMD1,000,000 challenge
Small businesses are among the most vulnerable and face the immediate impact of the pandemic. With this in mind, AccLabGM served as a panelist on the European Union funded a GMD 1 million challenge championed by Kanifing Municipality Council (KMC) and Gambia Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) supported by ITC / Tekki fi partners. The challenge presented the ideal opportunity for a virtual solutions mapping of responses emerging from innovative young entrepreneurs to tackle socioeconomical challenges caused by the pandemic. A total of 44 community-based solutions were received focusing on three key challenge areas:
· E-commerce: Market distortions and closure of non- essential businesses
· Transportation / Distribution: Reduction in public transportations revenue due to limited passengers;
· Education: Learning disruptions due to closure of schools;
Social media and virtual communication tools enabled the interdisciplinary panel from six institutions to coordinate, advertise, assess submissions and shortlist the top most innovative and feasible solutions with the three finalists to be awarded by end of May.
e-commerce solutions connecting buyers and sellers through web / online platforms:
Solution 1 – Le Jumbo | lejumbo.com web platform for essential and non-essential products and services
Solution 2 – ebaaba.com | an online marketplace providing opportunities for transporters through delivery services
Solution 3 – tesitoo.com | web platform for agricultural products
Transportation solutions facilitating the distribution of essential supplies whilst supporting local entrepreneurs and promoting locally made products
Solution 1 – Outboost Media and Analytics | an out-of-home ad. tech(advertising) firm utilizing public transportation (taxis) to raise awareness.
Solution 2 – Made in Gambia (MiG) Distributions | focused on delivering locally “Made in The Gambia” products as well as essential items to residents.
e-learning solutions delivering education via online content and mobile applications
Solution 1 - Gisqo (Gamstudy, GamQuiz, and Educare) | an integrated learning management delivered through online content
Solution 2 – eClassRoom.com | a mobile application for e-learning
Solution 3 – Janga | remote learning platform specific to high and lower basic schools
Solution 4 – XamXam | a learning management platform offering an option for students with limited internet access
Solution 5 - Educate220.com | an eLearning web application that allows for content download
Exciting initiatives to look out for
Beneficiary mapping to be conducted in partnership with Google’s local affiliate, Finding Gambia. AccLabGM is facilitating access to a Google Plus Codes System virtual training, via Google Meet, to 56 Gambian youth under the National Youth Council (NYC) chapters.
Smart city pilot under development together with UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Development to support the Banjul City Council in digitalizing their registration and revenue collection system. The initiative intends to test digital addressing of market vendors and traders, e-payments and tracking.
Last mile internet connectivity solutions are being explored together with UNICEF particularly for schools in rural Gambia. Options being considered include TV white space technology using cell phone towers or feasible e-learning platforms.
Virtual court emerged as a solution to the overcrowded prison system being strained further by the current halt of court proceedings. To avoid having a potential epicenter of the corona virus, AccLabGM in partnership with UNDP Rule of Law collaborated with government counterparts and (Judiciary, Ministry of Justice, Police, Prisons, NALA, Gambia Bar Association) to deploy technology that would ensure that all required personnel can be connected to test the initial phase of a virtual court system for bail applications of eligible prisoners. This is combined with a partnership with the Private Sector (GCCI) to improve the condition in the correction centers and COVID-19 prevention.
Crisis management dashboard under development together with the National Disaster Management Agency as a response to mitigate risks emerging due to the pandemic. The web-based dashboard will visualize COVID-19 related activities emerging in each of the five regions of the country.
The Gambia Beyond COVID-19
The pandemic has impacted aspects of the Accelerator Lab methodology particularly for solution mappers in their direct engagement with local communities. Nonetheless, it has opened up windows of opportunities in a virtual world, for example through challenges and hackathons to continue engagements. What has also been demonstrated is the importance of digital readiness and the crucial role that technology can play in keeping our society functional. For The Gambia, the reality still remains that only a small percentage of the population can leverage the benefits of remote work, e-learning, mobile payments and online entertainment. Nonetheless, AccLabGM continues to call on all partners and innovators to leverage the opportunities presented by this pandemic as we work towards building The Gambia beyond COVID-19.