“Increased Internet Access Will Soon Be a Reality in Haiti”

01/10/2013

Ayitic, a project that seeks to strengthen the digital capacities of Haiti, one of the continent’s least developed countries which has also been badly hit by natural catastrophes over the past few years, is moving forward. Promoted by the Internet Address Registry for Latin America and Caribbean (LACNIC), the Ayitic “Internet for Development” project aims at training technicians and professionals working in the field of information and communications technology in order to increase Internet penetration in this Caribbean country (currently at only 8 per 100 inhabitants).

Edmundo Vitale is Ayitic’s coordinator and confident that Internet penetration will increase “in the short- to medium- term.”

Speaking to LACNIC News, Vitale highlighted the spirit of the project and encouraged other organizations to join the initiative.

What are the goals of Ayitic “Internet for Development” in Haiti? What are the project’s main lines of action and who will be its direct and indirect beneficiaries?

The overarching goal of Ayitic “Internet for Development” is to directly contribute to building capacities for Haitian technicians and professionals working in information and communication technologies (ICTs).

The project seeks to achieve three concrete results: developing a structured training and strengthening system, creating an organizational support model that ensures the project’s continuity and sustainability, and developing the tools needed for medium-term impact evaluation.

The main lines of action are directly related with identifying the country’s needs in terms of skilled human resources in the field ICTs, understanding the government’s ideas and policies in terms of development plans for the country, identifying private telecommunication companies, identifying the technological trends that will be deployed in the country in the short- and medium- term; in other words, having a clear picture of the country’s situation so that, once these questions have been answered, the best training proposals can be defined.

The project´s direct beneficiaries include all ICT professionals in the country, but we believe that in the future we must also involve advanced university-level ICT students. In addition, efforts must be made to bring this model to the interior of the country.

How does it feel to lead this project that seeks to promote ICT development in a country as badly beaten as Haiti?

Personally, it makes me feel very much of use to be able to contribute to this noble cause which I am sure will help strengthen the human resources Haiti needs in terms of ICTs… I am also happy to be working on this initiative, which combines a major social component with its technical aspects.

When recalling what happened on January 12, 2010 when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck southwestern Haiti and destroyed much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, we must also remember that, as a result of this event, 87% of the higher education institutions in Haiti were badly damaged or completely destroyed. A large segment of qualified professionals emigrated from Haiti, while others died as a result of the natural disaster.

For this reason, Ayitic aims to contribute and collaborate with the recovery and development plan created by the government of Haiti, “Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti” (PDNA), together with the technical community, civil society and international cooperation.

The PDNA highlighted the following priorities: rebuilding the pool of qualified human resources and developing modern, efficient information and communication techniques for public services (Internet development, digital networks, and the deployment of mobile communications to allow the government to communicate with the population).

Within this context, and in line with LACNIC’s vision to promote and defend the regional community’s interests and help create conditions such that the Internet will be an effective instrument for social inclusion and economic development, we created the Ayitic project and are now moving forward.

How long do you believe it will take for Haiti to effectively deploy infrastructure to increase Internet penetration in the country?

Increasing Internet penetration will be a reality in the short- to medium- term. Setting a timeframe for this goal implies an understanding of the political and economic decisions the government will implement in the future, though we believe they are concerned with developing modern digital communication systems –something we noted during our interviews with government officials while preparing the August workshop. In view of the support of the local technical community, the interest shown by the government, and the support manifested by the international community that provides funding for relevant initiatives and for the adoption of new technologies, everything seems to indicate that deploying infrastructure to increase Internet access and services will become a reality. All these changes must go hand in hand with strengthening and improving the technical capacities of the Haitian workforce and the country’s ICT professionals.

Given the current social and economic context and the fact that Haiti’s infrastructure was severely damaged by recent natural disasters, what are the key factors for making the Internet a tool for social inclusion and one that will drive Haiti’s local economy?

Although some efforts are being observed at international level and that some of these have already permeated a small part of Haitian society, social inclusion policies, modern communications between government agencies and Haitian citizens, the opportunities that the private sector sees in telecommunications and ICTs in general… Considerable potential for growth and social development exists thanks to modern communication services, new relationships between the various communities, the need to bring the Internet and new technologies in general to the educational sector. In my opinion, these are the key factors for making the Internet a modern and efficient communication channel as well as a means for improving relationships among companies, citizens and the government and for promoting growth.

This obviously makes for a complex system, one that is not only interrelated and constantly providing feedback, but one that also affects all other sectors of the country.

The presence of organizations such as LACNIC also plays an interesting role in developing this culture where new technologies and, consequently, the Internet are appropriated.

Which other regional stakeholders should be involved in this initiative?

Financial, institutional and academic support plays a key role in this kind of initiatives. If this initiative, originally promoted by LACNIC, is able to bring together these three supporting pillars, human resource capacity building in Haiti will become a project where partners collaborate, a project that is stable and sustainable, one with positive goals that are relevant for the integral development of the country.

International and multilateral organizations operating in Haiti, those who are helping build and develop the country, must be contacted for financial support: UNPD, USAID, OAS, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank, among others.

Non-profit organizations with an interesting history of human resource capacity building in the field of ICTs for Latin America and which are also contributing to similar initiatives in Africa and in certain parts of Eastern Europe should also be invited: NSRC, EsLaRed Foundation, ICTP.

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