Liberia’s digital genius who started life as a refugee – FrontPageAfrica

Monrovia– Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of most Liberians, many of whom operate one business or another. It is common to see children helping their parents in various businesses when they finish their daily shift. (Most schools operate in two shifts, a morning shift and an afternoon shift to allow more children to attend school.) By the age of 15, many children participate in income-generating activities to increase family income.

But for Maweyata Sow, 35, the story was different. His father, a businessman, forbade him from hanging out in the market, urging him to pursue an education instead.

“My father loves education and forbade me from hanging out in the market. He wanted me to go where he had never been; he wanted me to get the most out of education,” Maweyata said.

After completing his primary education, his family was forced to flee the war to neighboring Guinea in 2003. There, he was able to join and complete his secondary education at the refugee school in Conakry, with the support of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Upon his return to Liberia in 2008, he became passionate about repairing computers and other computer equipment. But rather than let him sell his skills and other wares, his father sent him to college to study computer hardware and networking, as well as software engineering. These diplomas allowed him to land jobs in various companies in Togo and Guinea in the money transfer sector. He also ran a travel agency and a driving school in Conakry, Guinea.

Dissatisfied with this result, his father called him back to Liberia in 2012 to continue his studies, enrolling him in a B.Sc. dreamed of becoming an accountant before finding his true north.

“I realized I loved electronics early on. I remember visiting my aunt as a child and out of curiosity I turned on her television set to try and figure out how it worked,” he said.

Since leaving university, he has worked on various assignments involving data management, creating databases and digital systems for various organizations in the development sector. His desire to work in development grew out of interacting with and teaching United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) personnel on the use of computers.

“I really liked their contribution to humanity, but I was just a computer scientist who didn’t know much about development. However, I have an innate tendency to learn new things, that’s why I I was able to help Liberia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and DRC develop health information databases and management systems,” he said.

Maweyata is the mastermind behind the digitization of the Liberian Police Crime Management Information System and the Court Case Management Information System, which are expected to improve security and access to justice in the country . The digitization of the police, justice and ministry of justice is supported by UNDP.

The crime control system allows the police to update and track crimes committed in real time and appropriately deploy officers to investigate them quickly. The court system allows court clerks across the country to quickly register cases and track their progress, letting members of the public know exactly what stage their cases are at.

“In both cases, I worked with officials to understand their needs, then developed a bespoke information management system for each using existing open source technologies,” he said. .

Maweyata says the systems are unique in Africa with scope for expansion to include more categories of information, for example, traffic data for the police crime information system.

There is also the possibility of interoperability which would link the police system with that of the judiciary to strengthen collaboration between the two institutions, so that when there is a change of jurisdiction for a case, for example, the police are duly informed by its system, and therefore lead the detainees to the right place.

“Digitizing these institutions will also reduce corruption and increase accountability as all records and evidence will be intact once digitized and saved online, discouraging anyone from deleting or tampering with them,” he said.

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