The Science and Technology Act in Lesotho

On 24 December 2021 the Science and Technology Act was enacted in Lesotho. This has come as a breath of fresh air seeing as the world has gone digital due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2020 the globe has been in disarray and most companies and schools have been forced to work remotely.

Lesotho adopted a Science and Technology Innovation Policy (“STIP”) in 2006-2011 and also introduced the Lesotho Academy for Science and Technology (“LAST”). There is a call on civil society and the entire nation to utilize science, technology and innovation as tools to reduce poverty, create jobs and transform the country into a dynamic economy and informed society. The major objectives of the LAST academy, include providing linkages between academia and the industry and facilitating technological innovation and excellence in Lesotho.

The adoption of the STIP policy is a step towards a greater role of Science and Technology Innovation in the country’s development strategy. The challenge is how to convert it into a series of implementable initiatives. Action has already been taken on some of these, such as setting the legal framework for the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Science and Technology, the Lesotho Advisory Commission for Science and Technology and the Lesotho Innovation Trust Fund.

Considering this, the Act establishes a Commission, Secretariat for the Commission and a Board of Trustees for science and technology development in the country. The main objective of the Act is to establish the Commission and an Innovation Trust Fund. The Trust Fund has a Board of Directors with a background in law, technology, and accounting.

Moreover, the Act establishes a Commission which is comprised of persons with Science and Technology expertise from government ministries, parastatals, institutions of higher learning, the private sector and the general public. It also has powers which may be exercised only if scientific and technological activities are for national interest.

The main functions of the Commission as outlined in section 5 of the Act include the following;

  1. Facilitate the implementation of the Science and Technology Policy (STIP);
  2. Instilling an innovation and invention culture among citizens to foster economic and social development;
  3. Create job opportunities and alleviate poverty;
  4. Foster a science, technology, human and physical resource base competitive with other countries;
  5. Identifying sources of funding for science and technology and recommending allocation of such funds for the benefit of science and technology;
  6. Facilitate the promotion of science and technology and its benefit to national development;
  7. Provide advice to the Government in relation to science and technology through relevant ministries; and
  8. Adopt and recommend science and technology implementations and developments.

The Act also provides for the establishment of a sector committee and their functions include, but are not limited to:

  1. Identifying creativity and innovation and inventions and assist in their further development;
  2. Promote new technologies and their adaptations to users and beneficiaries;
  3. Developing programmes on awareness of science and technology and its application to social development; and
  4. Conduct surveys to assess availability of science and technology resources and ensure there’s adequate resources.

The purpose of the Science and Technology Innovation Trust Fund include:

  1. Developing science and technology fund raising strategies,
  2. Developing criteria for funding science and technology projects and programmes in the national level,
  3. Funding educational research at any level of school for purposes of science, technology and engineering,
  4. Soliciting funds and creating awareness on the importance of science and technology; and
  5. Accepting grants and/or gifts from any person or organization for the purposes of furthering science and technology

The COVID-19 pandemic is quickly demonstrating why online education should be a vital part of teaching and learning. By integrating technology into existing curricula, as opposed to using it solely as a crisis-management tool, teachers can harness online learning as a powerful educational tool.

The effective use of technology can increase engagement and facilitate personalized learning. It will also aid to build essential 21st-century skills. This Commission is going to be a focal point for Science and Technology initiatives geared at the development of Lesotho.