The National University of Lesotho International Science, Technology and Innovation Conference and Expo (NULISTICE 2020) was so cute.
First it was a Hackathon marathon in which more than 100 technology gurus contested. Then it was a mind-blowing four-day expo at the Pioneer Mall with around 150 different products on the show on more than 100 stalls. And then there was a cosy Gala Dinner attended by a whopping 300 people!
The event, which was proudly sponsored by the UNDP and Vodacom, attracted a grand total of more than 500 people from all walks of life.
“NULISTICE 2020 is a small, humble effort by young motivated innovation enthusiasts who keep moving even as they make baby-steps,” said Mr Motlatsi Ketsi, the Coordinator of the NUL Innovation Hub. "It is an event that is meant to kindle the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in Lesotho."
Here is how it unfolded. In the morning of Saturday the 18th of January 2020, droves of young bright minds descended on the Roma Valley from all corners of Lesotho. They would be holed in the Valley for the next 24 hours non-stop (hackathon-marathon).
Immediately, they were introduced to six computer problems which they had to solve.
For the NUL Innovation Hub, they had to produce two things. One was a website that would also provide two services; an e-commerce and a mini-stock exchange (a platform through on which people can go to invest in innovation hub businesses).
They also had to produce an e-platform which would help NUL students to solve real-world problems when they do their final year research or masters or PhD work. Members of the society, including businesses, government departments and NGOs can place their problems there online and NUL students will pick the ones they would prefer to solve, but as part of their academic project.
For Vodacom, two things: The contesters were expected to create a farmers’ app. This app will help farmers to combine their produce. A single farmer may produce in small quantities. But if they bring their produce together, they may sell huge quantities which meet market demands.
Another app is meant to help fight crime. For instance, when you are about to be a crime victim, you just press this app and it will do a number of things. These include alerting a certain number of people around you, the community police (mahokela) or the formal police, about the crime. The system may also assist people to identify your location.
For UNDP, two things: First, they had to make a Government Depository. That would be a one-stop shop where all publicly available government documents could be placed and accessed by anyone, in a digital format, and over the internet.
Another app, would help in the tracking of the achievements of the National Strategic Development Plans (NSDP).
One Tuesday the 21st of January 2020, droves of innovators from all walks of life descended on the Pioneer Mall. They would be there for the next four days from morning until night, entertaining the nation with different forms of innovative products and ideas.
More than 150 different ideas and products were on show by more than 100 innovators.
One app that appealed to people’s imagination would be used to wake people up when they slept while driving. It was one thing to listen to those young minds explaining what the app was able to do. It was quite another to see the app doing exactly that.
“This year’s expo really took people’s attention because most of the stalls were showcasing tangible products,” Ketsi said. “In fact most people realised that those young minds meant business— their products were already for sale.”
As if that was not enough, on the evening of Thursday the 23rd of January 2020, droves of people filled up Maseru Avani Hall to enjoy a Gala Dinner whose aim was to celebrate innovation.
On the menu were short inspiring speeches, live music, DJing, poetry and, of course, good food.
As the people were eating and wining and dancing to the music, you would be forgiven for thinking they were celebrating the grand achievements of the grand Vision 2020.
But no—actually, they were celebrating the measly achievements of a small, next-to-nothing NULISTICE 2020, which, nevertheless, did take place.