A Step Forward: Technology Resurgence in Haiti

Haiti may be an untapped into tech haven. For example, Maarten Boute, Chairman of Digicel (a large telecom provider in the Caribbean) has tried to help make Haiti a more tech-friendly country. This is in part, in response to the fallacy that Haiti has low internet connectivity and a no sizable English-speaking population. Digicel however, has invested in increasing internet connectivity by building fiber networks that would allow for better connectivity in major cities. This push may bring about a “call center surge” in Haiti, particularly in Port-Au-Prince, where many able bodies await work.

Internally, tech startups are also becoming increasingly important in Haiti. Chairman Maarten founded two tech startups, Surtab and Re-Volt. Both these startups have social justice oriented goals. For example, Surtab aims to better the educational system in Haiti by making the classroom experience mobile, while Re-Volt is aimed at providing affordable electricity to the Haitian people.

Clearly, programs demonstrate steps forward, as opposed to backward, in Haiti’s continuing efforts to rebuild and stabilize.

Read the full story here.

 

 

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Magdala is a second-year law student at the University of Illinois College of Law. She is the first generation of her family to be born in the United States!

The THESS Effect: Technological Platform Seeks to Revolutionize Access to Higher Education in Haiti

A tool is underway that could revolutionize education in Haiti. THESS (Hybrid Technology for Education, Science and Knowledge), is a technology created in Haiti under the supervision of Elisabeth Béton Délègue, the Ambassador of France.

In particular, THESS is a technological platform that helps to facilitate “online education, university governance, educational management, collaborative tools.”Additionally, THESS was created with the hope of improving and growing access to university education in Haiti. The 2016 year will prove useful to figuring out whether the system has true staying power, especially in a country where only 29% of people 25 years of age and above attend a secondary institution.

For the original story and more on THESS click here.

 

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Magdala is a second year law student at the University of Illinois College of Law. She is the first generation of her family to be born in the United States!

Comcast Brings Gains in Digital Literacy for Boston’s Haitian Community

Digital literacy is a pervasive problem in American society still, even though iPhones and other smart devices seem to be increasingly the norm. In particular, digital literacy is more of a problem in poorer communities, and communities with large immigrant populations. President Obama has pointed this out in July of 2015 with the ConnectHome initiative.

The ConnectHome Initiative seeks to “reach over 275,000 low-income households – and nearly 200,000 children – with the support they need to access the Internet at home.” This is certainly not just a federal program but also one that uses “[i]nternet Service Providers, non-profits and the private sector [to provide] . . . broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units.”

Seemingly, a program started by Comcast’s senior vice president, Steve Hackley, about three years ago in Boston, Massachusetts, was ahead of the game. As the story goes, Mr. Hackley spurred a relationship with a non-profit in an under-serviced area of Boston, with a large Haitian immigrant population when he bought lunch for his sales and marketing employee Bukia Louis Chalvire. Chalvire was head of a local non-profit called the Mattapan/Greater Boston Technology Learning Center, dedicated to the needs of the Haitian community. More specifically, Mattapan sought to “bridge the digital divide and bring technology to people in the community, many of whom did not have access to internet in their homes.”

After speaking to representatives from Comcast about the needs of the particularized needs of the Haitian community and Mattapan, an “enduring” partnership arose:

Today, Mattapan Tech annually offers free and low-cost training and job placement to about 1,200 adults of all ages from 14 ethnic backgrounds – about 40 percent with Caribbean heritage. As an Internet Essentials partner, Mattapan Tech has so far provided about 50 digital literacy training sessions for about 750 students. In addition, Comcast helped air public service announcements about Mattapan classes and the availability of Internet Essentials to the community.

Clearly, gains have been made towards the aims inherent in President Obama’s ConnectHome initiative, and the Haitian community has been among the winners.

To read more about Chalvire’s story and Comcast’s partnership click here for the original article.

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Magdala is a second year law student at the University of Illinois College of Law. She is the first generation of her family to be born in the United States!

The Time to Act is Now: Drone Delivery Systems in Haiti and Lessons from the Developing World

In light of recent discussions over the cholera epidemic and a pending class action law suit against the U.N. for “bringing cholera to Haiti,” this necessitates a discussion of preventative measures. More specifically, the use of drones in healthcare, and how they could have helped to lessen the blow dealt to the people of Haiti, almost 10,000 – but likely more – that have died due to the cholera epidemic since 2010.

According to the BBC, drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAVs”), are often “used in situations where manned flight is considered too risky or difficult.” More generally, these agents have been used more frequently in combat offensives, often to target specific individuals with deadly fire or for the purpose of gaining intelligence on opposition forces. Commercially, drones have also caught the eye of companies like Amazon and Uber that have shown interest in using drone technology.

In the healthcare context, drones might be considered an untapped resource. This, however, is being addressed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (“UNICEF”) and the Malawi government to help streamline the often slow wait times and lack of medical supplies necessary to conduct HIV testing. Similarly, another African nation, Rwanda, has a similar program meant to remedy the issues with getting medical supplies to remote areas where infrastructure is not fully developed. Furthermore, the costs associated with drone delivery are relatively low; “[t]he UN agency is spending up to $1.5-million (U.S.) annually on the delivery of HIV blood samples in Malawi. The drones, by contrast, cost only a few thousand dollars each, and operating costs are low because they are battery-powered.”

Looking back to Haiti and the cholera epidemic, seemingly the moment to act is now. A program that uses drone technology to diagnose and ship medical supplies to the ill will be no doubt a large improvement to the status quo. Many areas of Haiti still are considered remote. More specifically, many roads leading out of the capital are not developed, making travel to a medical facility often an arduous task. For example, some healthcare practitioners state that:

Drones are likely to enhance healthcare delivery in developing countries and remote or impoverished areas of the U.S. While drones may not drop packages at the entrances of Chicago high-rises, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have delivered supplies to earthquake victims in Haiti and to places like Papua New Guinea.  Mayo Clinic predicts increased use of drones to transport blood products and drugs in response to mass casualty incidents and critical access hospital needs. Consider the benefits of drone-delivered defibrillators, organs, medications and medical supplies.

Thus, though the use of drones might bring up issues in the future regarding patient privacy, in the short-term,  there is hope that drone delivery systems could be instrumental in saving lives.

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Magdala is a second-year law student at the University of Illinois College of Law. She is the first generation of her family to be born in the United States!

Digicel Files Suit Against U.S. Firm

Digicel, one of Haiti’s most popular telecom providers, recently filed suit against a U.S. corporation, UPM. The relevant facts excerpted from the February 3, 2016 court order are as follows:

Digicel operates telephone switching systems in Miami, Florida, and New York City, New York, that route international calls from third-party providers (such as AT&T and Verizon) to Digicel customers in Haiti. The switching systems use an international gateway that allows Digicel to manage call routing and account for any billing and associated regulatory charges. Under Haitian law, international telephone carriers must charge at least 23 cents per minute for international calls terminating in Haiti. Accordingly, Digicel charges third-party providers at least 23 cents per minute to route international calls to Digicel customers in Haiti. UPM is an Oregon corporation that offers to route international calls to Haiti at lower rates than Digicel. UPM does so by purchasing large quantities of pre-paid Digicel Subscriber Identity Module (“SIM”) cards4 in Haiti, shipping the cards to UPM’s operations in Oregon, and incorporating the cards into a system connected to the internet. Digicel alleges that UPM sends money by international wire to its agents in Haiti for the purchase of Digicel SIM cards. According to Digicel, shipping documents show that agents shipped Digicel SIM cards from Haiti to Oregon, addressed to Defendant Benjamin Sanchez (“Sanchez”), Owner of UPM Marketing and President of UPM Telecom, and Defendant Tyler Allen (“Allen”), who is also affiliated with UPM. Customer forms also show that Defendant Baltazar Ruiz (“Ruiz”), Project Manager of UPM Telecom, shipped computer equipment to Haiti. Digicel asserts that Ruiz provided laptops, internet routers, and generators to co-conspirators in Haiti to facilitate UPM’s operations.

Unigestion Holding, S.A., UPM Technology Inc., No. 3:15-cv-00185-SI, 2016 WL 427068, at *2 (D. Or. filed Feb. 3, 2016). Digicel has alleged that UPM has engaged in about seven different prohibited acts, including the mail and wire fraud predicates to RICO and unjust enrichment. Two of the claims alleged against UPM were dismissed by a district court in Oregon, pursuant to a motion to dismiss filed by Digicel. Five claims remain.

 

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Magdala is a second-year law student at the University of Illinois College of Law. She is the first generation of her family to be born in the United States!

Talks Over Unified Exchange Platform for Government Data Commence in Haiti

Government leaders in Haiti have begun discussion over the Unified Exchange Platform (also known as UXP). This platform has been used by other developing nations. Some describe this software as revolutionizing the exchange of information among governmental entities. For example, data can be shared much more rapidly within the government. Proponents of this system also boast that it provides a level of security that meets the industry standard. What has not been elaborated on, however, is what type of data will actually be shared and how this system plans on protecting the privacy interests that lurk in personally identifiable information. This brings to mind the essential questions, “Is it security or privacy that we want?  If we want both, how do we balance these interests?”

Source: Pilot phase of implementation of the UXP platform, Haitilibre.com (Feb. 11, 2016), http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-16576-haiti-technology-pilot-phase-of-implementation-of-the-uxp-platform.html.

 

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Magdala is a second-year law student at the University of Illinois College of Law. She is the first generation of her family to be born in the United States!