PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti is a country that remains among the poorest and most unequal countries in Latin America. This comes especially after suffering the devastating setback that was the 2010 earthquake. There is great evidence of progress, with increases in sanitation, education and employment. However, inequality and poverty are still evident. Though all areas have experienced growth in some way after the earthquake, the urban parts of Haiti are experiencing a more robust development. The introduction of digital literacy has ushered in a technological age for Haitians. As Haiti continues to recover and eradicate poverty by introducing technology into its economy, both private groups and public entities are starting to invest efforts in the country’s development. These five facts about digital literacy and technology development in Haiti are integral to understanding the country’s changing economic state and transition out of poverty.
5 Facts Involving Technology Development in Haiti
- Haiti, despite its progress and digitization, is still the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. About 80% of the population lives in poverty, and around 50% of the population is illiterate. Overcrowded classrooms have resulted in less than satisfactory education levels, with less than 1% of Haitians pursuing higher education. Many young Haitians have been unable to develop the digital literacy necessary for survival in the new world. As a response to the devastating 2010 earthquake, many groups have pledged to support the Haitian people in their recovery and development as a people and nation.
- A new initiative has arisen to address the problems posed by a lack of technological devices. This new idea is the “Information and Communication Technologies for Education” initiative. It is also known as the “Project of Hope”. The main goal of ICTE in Haiti is to offer a means to acquire resources and technology to increase digital literacy. By facilitating computer usage and allowing students to develop technology skills, poverty will be reduced and the development of the standard of living in Haiti can continue. Students, teachers and parents all need to develop skills in technology, which is the Project of Hope’s end goal.
- Another idea gaining support is to train younger women in information technology services. These computer-based jobs would primarily increase the digital literacy of the workforce. In addition, it would provide a steady income to a group that is traditionally marginalized. But it also serves a second purpose. Due to companies outsourcing technology jobs, women in Haiti can take advantage of their newfound skills to capitalize on a growing market. The International Development Research Centre has provided around $800,000 for research into this potential employment opportunity.
- The tablet/PC company Surtab has taken a stronghold in the Haitian technology sector. Initially brought to life by a $200,000 grant from USAID and $250,000 of private investment, the company is working to connect the urban and rural areas of Haiti. For the public, Surtab assists healthcare officials with providing adequate nutrition, family planning and pregnancy support. For its employees, Surtab offers strong health benefits and a respectable wage (well above the minimum wage). Connecting new economic possibilities with better health in Haiti, Surtab is just one company working to rebuild the frail infrastructure of Haiti.
- About 20% of Haiti’s population does not have access to any sanitation. Therefore, infection and disease rates are high in the country. To combat this deficit, an effort by professors at the University of Maryland to develop “biodigester” tanks is underway. This development would allow bacteria to be converted into natural gas. Thus, allowing for a two-pronged solution to both the sanitation and energy problems in Haiti. Over 30 students have been trained at three pilot projects in Haiti so far. There are also plans to further develop and expand the model. Increasing the sanitation in Haiti is a crucial factor in reducing poverty and increasing scientific knowledge. This new project can have great implications for the country’s betterment.
Though progress has been limited in Haiti due to natural disasters and infrastructural issues, there is a continued effort to restore and improve the country. Many agents, both native and foreign to Haiti, are working to ensure that the country can eliminate its chronic poverty problem. The continued technology development in Haiti will help the nation prosper.
– Pratik Koppikar