Implementation of Open Digital Spaces and the Virtual University in Senegal: a Journey through Transformative Innovation

Thinking & Analysis

March 2019
Fatou Cisse, Mamadou Sy, Joseph Dieme, Chux Daniels, Marie Blanche Ting

Senegal participated in a Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) Africa workshop on the 4th and 5th of February 2019. The workshop was held at National Research Foundation (NRF) in Pretoria, South Africa. The NRF, as a founding member of the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC), has played a key role in establishing a context for Sub-Saharan African countries (SSA) for collective work on the TIP. Besides South Africa the other three countries involved in the TIP Africa Hub are Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal. The TIP Africa Exploratory Hub is a research project focused on science, technology and innovation (STI) policies, that is considered ‘transformative’. In this sense, ‘transformative’ means placing societal and environmental needs alongside economic needs in policy formulation, implementation and governance.

Senegal had the following delegation in the workshop: Professor Mamadou SY, DSPR Director, Head of Mission and Coordinator of the Senegal TIP Team; Dr. Fatou CISSE, CRES / UCAD, Head of the TIP Senegal research team; and Dr. Joseph Saturnin DIEME, DIVPITT, researcher TIP Senegal.  As part of the implementation of the pilot phase of the TIP project, Senegal’s local research team was asked to draw up a report on the country’s innovation policy, a mapping exercise. This report includes among other topics:

  • The evolution of STI policy;
  • STI governance and financing;
  • The national system of Research and Development (R&D) and innovation;
  • Projects and programs initiated to address socio-economic challenges;
  • Proposals for case studies to be conducted in order to explore the prospects for TIP in Senegal.

In line with TIP methodology, the workshop adopted a co-creation approach. Participants reviewed and compared the three country reports from Ghana, Kenya and Senegal. Undergoing the TIP pilot phase is an essential step for countries to join TIPC. Activities carried out in the pilot phase include:

  • A historical analysis of innovation policy in each country and prospects for transforming innovation – a mapping exercise;
  • A case study on TIP in each country and the development of a country-specific case study report using the Transformative Innovation Literature Histories (TILH) methodology;
  • Training and capacity-building on TIP, that helps interested countries better understand common vocabularies and TIP criteria relevant to the local context.

This workshop is the first of two transnational working sessions that will bring together stakeholders from the pilot countries to learn and share their knowledge of this TIP approach. In addition to participants from pilot countries (Ghana, Kenya and Senegal), and the TIPC team; the workshop also included the participation of representatives from Southern African countries taking part in the Science Granting Councils (SGCI). The first part of the workshop, was based on the mapping results of the countries participating in the TIP pilot project in Africa, providing a detailed review and cross-comparison of the three results of the first phase for each country. The presentations by TIPC team, including the Consortium’s Director Prof. Johan Schot, and the discussions that followed the presentations of each country’s reports contributed to strengthening the understanding of TIP as applied in different countries. and at the regional level. It is on this basis that recommendations have been formulated for the improvement of the mapping reports of each country’s innovation policy.

The second part of the workshop focused on the selection of the case study from the proposals made in the report on mapping the country’s innovation policy. To do this, in the working group, the different case study proposals formulated by each country were analysed according to the criteria defined in the TIP approach: on alignment to societal goal and system-level impact, directionality, reflexivity, conflict versus consensus, learning, and inclusion. In other words, this part of the workshop was used to assess, according to the TIP criteria, which of the proposed case studies demonstrated the highest potential for transformative innovation policy in the respective countries.  From this workshop, we learnt that a transformative innovation policy must pursue a specific direction (directionality), towards societal goal, with an impact at the level of the system and a degree of learning and reflexivity. Moreover, a transformative change needs to consider possible conflicts and consensus as part of the process of broadening inclusion and participation. On this basis, it was agreed that the Senegal case study would focus on the implementation of Open Digital Spaces (ENO), which is associated with the country’s establishment of a virtual university.

The second transnational workshop is scheduled to take place in Dakar, Senegal in the month of July 2019. Senegal will host participants from Ghana, kenya, South Africa, the UK and Canada. TIP Africa research is led by Dr Chux Daniels with funding for initiative provided by the International Development Research Center (IDRC), Canada.