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By: Ives Marie Chanel & Ronald Colbert[1]

Haitian authorities have not yet demonstrated any official interest in the promotion of the Internet.  The investments are still limited in this sector, which serves a minority with economic means – in a country whose yearly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) does not exceed US$457 per capita[2]

The globalization spreading around the world meets in Haiti a terrain characterized by archaic structures and inaccessibility of information.  Public authorities are not very sensitive to the need of being open towards technology that could allow the more efficient delivery of their services to the people. The principal problem of connecting to the Internet relates to the infra-structural and organizational deficiencies of the telecommunications sector.

 “If we do not make a jump to get into line, the gap between Haiti and the other countries will be even wider than it is already.  It takes an eternity to obtain an authorization for accessing the Internet by satellite.  One has the impression that pulling strings works better¼,” Reynold Pauyot said, Coordinator of the Haitian Telematics Network for Research and Development (REHRED).

Various people interviewed for the preparation of this briefing expressed the view that today, on the eve of the third millennium, we need a collective effort to understand the economic, social and cultural importance of the Internet to Haiti.

According to Kesner Pharel, Director General of “Groupe Croissance,” an economic analysis company in Haiti, the network of networks is changing everything, because we have passed from the real world into the virtual world.  The problem of the lack of libraries throughout the country will disappear.

Roosevelt Jean-François, journalist- presenter of an economic magazine at Radio Melodie FM, stated that electronic commerce in the new economy puts the consumer in direct contact with the producer, because, according to him, the Internet abolishes the notion of distance and the new technologies offer many more services.[3]  Strengthening economic relations between Haitians in the country and those abroad could be very beneficial, since the diaspora represents a very significant export market.

  

SInternautes (%  of the population)

weden, Iceland                                  >30

U.S.A.                                                                     26.3

OECD (outside the U.S.A.) 6.9

World                                                                     2.4

Latin America and Caribbean          0.8

Haiti                                                                       0.05

Sources: Based on the UNDP World Report on Human Development 1999.

The Caribbean region in general participates actively in the information revolution spurred by the Internet.  This is evident from the great number of web sites, user groups and chat rooms that have emerged, devoted to topics of interest to Caribbean people.

The preliminary results of a study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean[4]showed that the majority of Caribbean Internet users are professionals (white collar – desk bound), between 20 and 40 years old, who access the Internet both at home and at work.  The occupations of Internet users include the private sector, government, international and national organizations and academic institutions.

In the Caribbean, use of the Internet at home focuses, among others, on sending electronic mail, reading professional articles and news, doing research, and downloading files.

According to the survey respondents, the Internet is used at work for nearly the same tasks.  Although the majority reported a significant reduction in the costs of telephone, fax and mail, very few companies, based on utilizing the Internet, have implemented changes in their procedures.  The managers are still not ready to exploit the full potential of the Internet.

The Journey towards the Internet

In 1989, in the scope of a consortium with friends, Schiller Jean-Baptiste, presently manager of a company that sells Internet services, Globalité Electronique Sud (GlobelSud), set up in Port-au-Prince the first information service on a computer on-line, through the installation of a Bulletin Board System (BBS).  The telematics that allows one computer to be accessed by another computer over very long distances were also put into the service of some Haitian companies.  Already in those days, Jean-Baptiste spoke a language that was not understood by most Haitians, not even the most educated ones.

During the early 1990s, electronic mail was much more advanced in other Latin American and Caribbean countries than in Haiti.  In Ecuador, a team of the Latin-American Information Agency (ALAI) began to test out the possibilities of this technology.  For instance, the team covered in 1992, from Quito, the World Earth Summit held at Rio de Janeiro.  In 1990, the Latin Union[5], which had already succeeded in setting up a network in Peru, carried out a feasibility study on the establishment of a telematics network for research in Haiti.  This network later became the Haitian Telematic Network for Research and Development (REHRED).[6]

REHRED was launched in 1992 during a meeting of Haitian professionals in the Dominican Republic.  The company Alpha Communication Network (ACN) became the first company offering electronic mail service to the Haitian public.  In 1993 more than 300 people, companies and institutions were connected to ACN.  ACN used the services of an American company based in Florida to transmit, every thirty minutes, its packages of mail from Haiti or receive its mail from all over the world.

With this service, which was largely used by NGOs and commercial enterprises, in particular the assembly industry, ACN with its de facto monopoly clearly competed with the national telephone company.  Among others, the cost of transmitting messages was reduced by 50-75%, as compared to the price claimed for the transmission of messages by fax.

Negotiations have been difficult between the managers of ACN and the National Council on Telecommunications (CONATEL) regarding the establishment of a true data transmission network by satellite.  In November 1995, an authorization was finally granted to ACN to create a data transmission network in Haiti, thus providing access to other international networks.

This contract binds the company to CONATEL — a public organism in charge of concession of licenses and of control in the telecommunications sector — and further stipulates that the local company turns over to the government a 20% tax on its global sales and pays an income tax as well. Additionally, the government imposed that the company would provide Internet access to academic centres and research institutions free-of-charge.

The Internet became a very fashionable word in July 1996, when ACN started giving access through a simple local telephone call.  The company charged the equivalent of US$130.00 in local currency as installation fee and a monthly cost of US$16.30, which includes 20 hours of connection time.  There is an additional cost of US$1.63 per extra hour.

Access rates vary considerably from one country to another across the Caribbean and even between providers within the same country.  Costs range from as low as US$17 for 100 hours to as high as US$30 for 10 hours.[7]

By 1996, already more than 200 new customers were connected to the Internet, in addition to the 300 existing electronic mail customers.  Having invested close to half a million US dollars in equipment and facilities in order to offer this service, ACN hoped to connect 4,000 customers after two years of service, assuming that the country’s problem of access to the telephonic network would be solved.  The Presidential Palace was considered one of the most important users at the time, with its network of 40 fixed and about thirty portable computers.

“ACN had a quasi-monopoly, because the risk factor of this investment was high.  Potential entrepreneurs did not want to assume that,” Schiller Jean-Baptiste declared, a former director of the company.

It did not take long before disillusion arrived.  In fact, after its facility was put in service in July 1996, ACN has not been able to respond to all requests for installation nor guarantee a regular connection. Haitian Internet users spent long hours at night before being able to surf the Net.

 The Internet Service Providers (ISP) of Haiti
  1. Alpha Communications Network (ACN) – www.acn2.net

Internet access since July 1996.

  1. CompaData – www.compa.net

Internet access since late 1996, connection through ACN.

  1. REHRED – www.rehred-haiti.net

Internet access since late 1996, connection through ACN.

  1. Hintelfocus – www.haitiworld.com

Internet access since September 1997.

  1. GlobelSud – www.globelsud.net

Internet access since January 1998, first through ACN, now with independent connection.

  1. HaitiWeb – www.haitiweb.net

Internet access since November 1998, connection through ACN.

  1. America On-Line – www.aol.com

Virtual presence.  Access to the network through local telephone.

There are several other private systems of  companies and international agencies.  For instance: AUPELF-UREF – www.ht.refer.org provides Internet access to students based on an agreement with ACN.

The managers of this company explain the situation by referring to the refusal and the inability of the local telephone company to assign them the requested telephone lines, that should facilitate Internet access through a simple local call. To start its operation, Haiti Telecommunications (TELECO) assigned ACN 20 access lines of which 55% were regularly down. This situation inspired a feature article published by Inter Press Service (IPS) under the title “Haiti: the Internet arrives before the telephone.

The main competitor of ACN, Hintelfocus, which started to offer Internet access in September 1997, has more than a fifty telephone lines.  Garry Saint-Germain, manager of Haitiweb Communications, a new company providing Internet access and services, estimates that the total number of telephone lines available country-wide for accessing the Internet lies between 100 and 150.

Turmoil in Telecommunications

 On 27 September 1999, the authorities of CONATEL and TELECO demanded the justice system to seal off the premises of ACN for “suspicions of fraud.”  According to the executives of these entities, ACN was implied in the non-authorized traffic of international communication through its network.  The piracy of international traffic caused a monthly loss to TELECO of 5 million US dollars, according to statements  by the new Director General of TELECO, Jean-François Chamblain to the Haitian Press Agency (AHP).

These accusations were rejected by ACN, which indicated that the equipment found in its premises were only partially installed, not connected and thus non-functional.

“We’re not acting against the Internet, but against modern pirates who are using the lines allocated to them for unauthorized purposes, the traffic of international calls,” Mr. Chamblain explained.  In an interview to the Nouvelliste[8], he further declared that, after the discovery of piracy activities, TELECO turned the lines allocated to Internet providers into unidirectional lines.  Because theoretically, according to him, they do not need anything else.

According to a high ranking official of TELECO, the daily international earnings of the company were substantially higher during the week following the sealing-off operation. In an interview with the Haitian Press Agency (AHP) on 4 October 1999, the same official stated that the temporary suspension of service of certain Internet and telephone providers has allowed the company to recover 100,000 minutes of international calls per day.[9]

According to that same source, the quantity of minutes recovered represents a daily revenue of US$55,000.  Stressing that the volume of incoming calls fluctuates between 300-400,000 minutes per day, he argued that the recuperation of this international traffic proves that something shady was going on on the network.

The sealing-off has caused the disruption of the operations of at least four small companies that sell telephone access, and has put 400 routers out of business (of which those of the Presidential Palace, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministries), – as well as the e-mail account of CONATEL – and has deprived several thousand Internet users of their communication with the rest of the world.  A good  number of users qualified the decision as a thoughtless one, done by authorities who not in any way take rights or harm done into account.

On 5 October 1999, two justices of the peace escorted by several policemen turned up at the offices of the provider GlobelSud.  According to Schiller Jean-Baptiste, the company’s Director General, they intimidated personnel and took away communication equipment worth several thousands of dollars.  These individuals also attempted to disconnect the machines used for connecting to the Internet.

One day before, an intervention took place at the radio station Vision 2000, which broadcasts via satellite and directly over the Internet since 1997.  The raid was carried out by the Director of CONATEL, Jean Ary Céant, himself escorted by a justice of the peace, police and technicians.  Nevertheless, the justice of the peace noted that the issue of broadcasting via satellite was already settled in 1998 by a ruling emanating from a special hearing.

At the moment of writing this briefing, the conflict between the regulatory body and ACN is still not resolved.  According to François Benoit, Director General of ACN speaking on the private television station Télémax on 5 October, ACN, as requested by TELECO and CONATEL, has removed its microwave antenna V-SAT, disconnected the lines borrowed from certain enterprises, submitted the list of its clients, adopted a new procedure in paying the licence fees and provided details about the owner of the satellite to which the parabolic antenna of ACN is connected.

A similar situation evolved in Jamaica in 1998.  InfoChannel, one of the first Internet service providers in the country, was inspected by executives and technicians of the telecommunication company Cable and Wireless (C&W) escorted by policemen.  Essential equipment was disconnected, effectively closing down access to the Internet.  The raid followed complaints that InfoChannel, using a V-SAT satellite earth station, had breached the exclusive telephone licence of C&W.

Realities of the National Market:  Disappointments and Successes 

Access  

In Haiti, Internet access is ensured through the following services: access by radio waves, access by telephone, and community access (“cybercafe” or “cybervillage”).

The market for access through radio waves is currently estimated at about 270-300 users.  The users have a Hertz connection defined by a router, for the distribution of Internet access on their local network or for retailing “dial up” access over the public telephone network of TELECO. Installing a router costs between 4 and 7 thousand US dollars, in addition to the equipment and the subscription fees, which run between 5 and 20 thousand Gourdes per month.

This market represents a turn-over of more than 2.5 million Gourdes[10] per month for the three companies that currently offer this service:  ACN, GlobelSud and Netcom.  Until 1998 ACN had 100% of this market and nowadays still holds close to 75%.

The market for access by telephone over the public telephone network was estimated in 1997 at about 600 users in Port-au-Prince with a potential reach of 1,500 users in the year 1999.  Presently this market represents a turnover of 500 thousand Gourdes per month or 6 million Gourdes annually, as users pay between 250 and 500 Gourdes per month, and installation fees range between 1,500 and 2,500 Gourdes.

 Access in the provinces

In June 1999, in support of the decentralization of communication and information, ACN through the company Biznet, linked the city of Jacmel to the Internet.  Biznet opened a cybercafe with 4 computers (2 for electronic mail and 2 for accessing the Internet) and expects to offer dial-up access soon.

Biznet is also about to develop Internet access in Les Cayes.

Several companies, among others ACN, Netcom and the Ilsi Consortium, GlobelSud and Compucas, are exploring the possibility to link Cap Haitian and Gonaives (second and fourth town of Haiti respectively) by the end of the year.

REHRED, a grouping of academic, non-governmental and public institutions, is developing initiatives for cybercentres in Port-au-Prince and the provinces, aimed at creating and promoting research interests.

Community access/cybercafe is offered by more than a dozen companies (examples: Labonet in Port-au-Prince, Computerworld in Petionville).  Each company has a park of a dozen computers placed for public access, and charges members and other users between 50 and 75 Gourdes per hour, or between 300 and 650 Gourdes per month for 20 hours of use in some cases and unlimited access in others. These enterprises ask between 3 and 5 Gourdes per page printed. This market represents an average turnover of 37 thousand Gourdes per month, or 450 thousand Gourdes per year.

Mobile access is not available in Haiti as yet. For the time being, the networks installed by the new telephones companies do not allow data transfer.

Development of content

A limited number of local companies offer the following services: Feasibility studies; Needs assessments of target audiences; Design of information; Research; Development of models; Editing; Creation of graphics; Sound recording and the creation of sound-tracks; Data base programming; and Web design and related applications.

Actually, few efforts have been undertaken to make institutions and companies interested in producing web sites, especially since the critical mass of users (which balances around 5,000 local users) as yet does not exist.  The potential local market consists of companies in the banking sector, the media, and commercial institutions that want to establish a presence for their clientele. Their target audiences could include local users as well as users in the diaspora.

Nevertheless, information on Haiti on the Internet has expanded in a significant way over these last years.  Today there are several very interesting web sites, which are developed and maintained by Haitian institutions and groups of professionals.  Some examples include:

www.haitiglobalvillage.com The site that offers links to many Haitian sites on the web.  An Internet portal for the community of Haitian websurfers.  www.haitiworld.com and www.haitilink.com are other Internet portals.

www.rehred-haiti.net An information service for members as well as other users, with 11 “listservs” including discussion fora (some of these are open to all and some are limited to members).  The site provides also access to 6 international lists on Haiti.

www.konpa.com Site with music, news, interviews and other information on Haiti.

Panos Website: www.panosinst.org
 The Panos Institute of Port-au-Prince and Washington, DC recently launched its four-lingual website: Creole, English, French and Spanish.

This interactive forum is at your disposal for inclusion of materials and discussion on issues related to the Panos mission.

All past MediaNET briefings and articles are included on the site and of course, we will post new materials when they become available.

Please visit and contribute!

www.inhaiti.com Directory (white and yellow pages) for Haiti.

www.haitiweb.net A site for news and links to various other sites, such as the Inter Press Service Agency and Haiti News Network (HNN) (in development).

www.haitionline.com Site for news and information on Haiti.

Several media websites: www.haiticulture.net (National Television),

www.radiovision2000.com (Radio Vision 2000), www.ahp.org (Haitian Press Agency), www.haitienmarche.com (Haiti En Marche).

www.palaishaiti.net/transparans  Site with information on the activities of Office of the President of Haiti.

www.haititourisme.com  Official site of the State Secretariat on Tourism.

http://ht.orientation.com  Launched in July 1999, this site is a portal, as well as a forum for discussion and general information in Creole.  A chatroom in Creole is also available at the address www.orientation.com/chat/

www.ahad-kreyol.org  Bulletin “Creole connection”.

Hosting of Sites

 Site hosting consists of offering a customer such services as renting computer space, 24-hour per day accessibility of the customer’s site by the Internet, as well as all the functions that facilitate its management at distance.  A site can be hosted in Haiti at a cost of 750 Gourdes per month.

The identification domain reserved for Haiti: .ht

The extension .ht, which identifies the domain of the Republic of Haiti, is still inactive due to a conflict regarding the management of this domain.  The various Haitian sites that are on the Web are registered within first level domains (.net, .com, .org) and most of them are hosted in the United States.  The number of sites hosted within Haiti is negligible.

The Haitian office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), within the framework of sustainable development, is putting the finishing touch to a collaborative network that should unblock the situation regarding .ht.  Because of the absence of this domain, which can help centralizing Internet traffic from Haiti, all local Internet operators must first find a connection through Miami, where the link will be made with another company that provides Internet access in the United States, which will return the signal to Haiti.

Dependency and Constraints 

“The youth tend to prefer learning other languages than their own.  The simultaneously caused loss of reach will be very negative in the long run for a country where essential data (on population, health, economy, etc.) will be very marginalized because of being absent on the Internet,” Garry Saint-Germain, president of HaitiWeb Communications, said.

Close to 80% of the web sites are in English even when less than one person per 10 in the world speaks this language.[11]  However, according to Catherine Trautmann, French Minister of Culture and Communication, “Reading French or to inform oneself in French is easier today, much easier than 5 or 10 years ago, thanks to digitalization and the development of the Internet.  The French-language Internet is very alive and does not stop growing.”[12]

Saint-Germain, who is also a technician involved in a project of UNDP for establishing an information management and decision-support system for the Office of the President of Haiti, thinks that, at the level of the managers of the national telephone company, there is a lack of understanding.

“If I make a global assessment of the sale of this service in Haiti, I believe that the difficulties of access, caused by the lack of telephone lines, remain the most serious constraint.  CONATEL and TELECO seem to display an anti-Internet attitude, because they do not really weigh the stakes of the technological pressure which knocks on our doors,” he raised.

As yet, there is not a critical mass of Internet users in Haiti, but this will not take long.  The restrictive policies of TELECO cannot be followed for too much longer under the pressure of the various actors in this field, who all demand access to more telephone lines for developing their clientele, said one of the operators.

TELECO, which together with seven other public companies implements a modernization programme of the government, serves 73,077[13] customers (8 telephones for 1,000 residents) and cannot satisfy the demands of the clientele.  For the Latin American and Caribbean region, the average number of principal telephone lines has climbed from 52 per 1,000 in 1985 to more than 90 in 1995.[14]  TELECO maintains that the difficulties of granting telephone lines for Internet access are due to a network problem, to which they are paying attention.

In  August 1998 TELECO warned against the use of its lines for the transfer of data but, paradoxically, took no measures at all to follow up on the various requests by specialized companies to install dedicated lines for Internet access service.

At present, there is a country-wide waiting list of more than 100,000 requests for the installation of telephone.  The majority of these requests go back several years.  Some customers have even already paid their basic installation fees without getting any service.  The capacity available in the telephone centrals is near 200,000 lines and TELECO had planned to install these 200,000 lines throughout the country within 1999.  Nowadays, TELECO must cope with the competition of 3 new cellular telephone companies: HAITEL, COMCEL and RECTEL.

A rural telephone programme is also being implemented, aimed at installing nearly 600 stations in the various communities of the country.  There is also a rural programme to establish a specific network for the financial system (initiated by the Central Bank).

To the non availability of telephone lines can be added: deficiencies in infrastructure such as difficulties in electricity provision and a limited number of computers because their prices are very high and there is no policy by local suppliers to provide either promotional offers or credit.

Exaggerated installation costs, an unsuitable education system that has not managed to lower the illiteracy of 55% of the population, and a weakness of technical qualifications should also be mentioned.  However, during recent years a number of computer schools have been created in Haiti to train the youth who are interested in the field of computer science, because this sector remains promising for the future.

Other Caribbean countries have the issues relating to the development of the Internet at heart. Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica conceive the Internet as a socio-economic development tool and are organizing themselves in order to take advantage.  A site in Jamaica, http://www.top5jamaica.com  provides qualitative information about the progress of the country’s communication system and local sites.

Also in Jamaica, an introductory course on information systems and Internet has been given in secondary schools since 1996.  “This government-sponsored programme allows students, especially those who do not have their own equipment, to familiarize themselves to Internet practices,” Erica McFarlane said, a teacher at the Herbert Morrison Technical High School in Montego Bay.

According to the Caribbean Week[15], the same programme is being developed in Barbados and in Trinidad and Tobago.  The Government of Barbados, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also developed its own site.  This site not only offers a basic perspective of Barbados, but allows Barbadians to search for information on the entire world, and promotes environmental protection, tourism and economic development, through delivering a packet of information on the world network.

The site www.caribbeannewspapers.com provides links to 26 papers and 10 radio stations of the region.  The site of Caribbean Week includes also many links: www.cweek.com/links

In the Dominican Republic it is expected that all primary, secondary, technical and professional schools will be connected to the Internet by the year 2000.  The announcement was made by the Dominican president, Leonel Fernandez, himself, during his official investiture in August 1996. At present, a request for connection entailing the purchase of a telephone line by enterprises, organizations, other institutions and households, is met in less than three months.

 The challenges for the country

Certain social strata in Haiti consider the arrival of the Internet to be a paradox.  It makes the daily duality obvious between the use of high technology by a minority and the archaism in which the vast majority of the population continues to struggle.

“What I am going to say is antagonistic.  It is a sector of activity for the future in a country where the rate of illiteracy is high, where infrastructure is deficient, and where information structures are traditional.  It is a mass market, but when one looks at the number of functioning enterprises the mass is very reduced ,” Schiller Jean-Baptiste stated.

“Communication becomes more and more difficult for the vast majority of the population, and the means only remain available to the economically privileged.  This results in a widening of the gaps between various classes of society.  If we do not pay attention, we will contribute to the reinforcement of the elite’s existence, which remains completely disconnected from the rest of the population,” Schiller Jean-Baptiste warned.

According to the most recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report on human development, the Internet is considered henceforth as important to a human being’s life as water, health and education.  However, in Haiti, with almost all the people not even having access to these necessities, awareness of the new information and communication technologies is far off.  “The enormous and recent technological progress opens an extraordinary potential for human development, on the condition that it is properly used,” the same report notes.

The banking system represents today the most organized sector in the field of computer technology.  Through the Central Bank, the entire banking system is being interconnected.  Having their own agenda, they recruit most of the best programmers as this allows their network to function, Gary Saint-Germain said.

It should be noted that most of the companies providing connection services have limited impact, with access capacity currently not going beyond 128 kilobytes.  The limited bandwidth, meaning the amount of information that can cross the network in one second, should not be disregarded in the scope of developing a viable partnership of the country with the outside world.

Also, the pricing policies practiced by the Internet service providers tend to benefit the elite class.  The public must pay a number of taxes of which the purpose remains obscure.

“To enter the Internet business, it costs a lot.  To remain there, the costs are even higher, due to a still restricted market that has led to a certain caution of potential investors.  Whereas the Internet market develops intensely, generating lots of jobs and income, it has not yet reached a growth rate that encourages the creation of companies and wealth, as well as access to information,” Saint-Germain deplored.

As an example, the Director of Haitiweb Communications mentions the cases of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago which are monopolizing the data processing services in the region.  This service is offered to large American companies, interested in buying in the Caribbean, where the price is four to five times lower.

In Haiti as well as in other countries of the Caribbean, the framework laws on communication are being renewed.  On 28 May 1999, the Ministers of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) approved the final draft of a policy framework for telecommunications for their sub-region, under the themes: “Competition, interconnection and universal service.”[16]

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has established the Caribbean Telecommunication Union (CTU) with the objective of assisting the development of regional policies on telecommunications.  CTU, based in Trinidad and Tobago, has 17 governmental members including Haiti and promotes the reform of legislation at the national and regional levels.

In Haiti, during the ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of CONATEL on 29 September 1999, Jean Ary Céant, the Director General announced that “after 8 years of consultation, discussion, negotiations and hard work, the new draft framework law to regulate the telecommunication sector of Haiti is ready at last.”  This project to develop the law, initiated in 1991 by CONATEL, has been completely revised by inter-ministerial bodies.[17]

 Infotel

The first large technology fair of Haiti was held in May 1998, an initiative of the business sector.  The exhibition, called “Infotel Expo,” with more than 19 exhibitors, presented to the public equipment and new information and communication technologies (NTIC) and popularized several Internet utilities at the eve of the third millennium.  In addition to exhibitions and demonstrations, a number of conferences and debates were held, on issues such as the use of the Internet in the promotion of micro-enterprises, the new professions created by the Internet, etc.

This fair is already on its way to become a tradition in the business and telecommunications world.  Infotel Expo 99, held in April, was a technological event with lots of progress compared to the previous year. The gathering had 10,000 visitors (5,000 the year before) and the number of exhibitors had also more than doubled.  About 20 conferences were held, compared to 12 last year.  After the gathering in Port-au-Prince in April 1999, in order to promote decentralization, Infotel continued its fair in the provinces: in July in Jacmel, and a similar event is foreseen for Cap Haitian from 29-31 October 1999 (Audience Magazine, May 1999, pages 30-35.  www.audiencemag.net )

A very important aspect of this technological fair has been the sponsorship of thousands of students who were enabled to visit the site and as such were introduced to the NTIC and to understanding of the stakes that await them in the next millennium.  The press participated actively and efficiently in the event.  Even people living abroad were able to follow the programme through the Infotel web site: www.infotelhaiti.com

This year, Haiti was present at TELECOM 1999, held in Switzerland from 10-17 October 1999.  This event united all member countries of the UN to mark the end of the century with an industry sector that has been very effective.

Perspectives 

Sheila Laplanche, who has a Master’s in Mathematics and is a impassioned by the Internet, suggested to start off with some important investments, even when limited to a small community that could be transformed into a “technopole.”  Achieving a higher level of education for a large part of the population is also necessary, she said.  More and more, the economy transforms itself towards a computerized society, where the raw materials are now the technological and highly-qualified human resources.

Most of the people interviewed during the preparation of this briefing, insisted on the need for the government to intervene: not to curb the enthusiasm of all those interested in investing themselves or their funds in the Internet, but to define the rules of the game.  In this regard, public authorities should plan, in partnership, what the country should be like in the next thirty years or more, and plan how the Internet could contribute to achieve the objectives set.

“In determining new strategies, we should allow the entire population to benefit from the technological change that comes with the new world of globalization, a world touching all aspects of life: economic, social, financial and educational.  Everything starts to change and institutions and companies need to articulate their strategies around existing needs in order to improve the situation. Otherwise, we will continue to be consumers and will only reproduce the old system in which a considerable number of people are excluded,” Schiller Jean-Baptiste thought.

Jean-Baptiste added that the technological development under way, paradoxically, could enable the access of illiterate people to the Internet, because its functions are not merely accessible through a computer keyboard, but also through multiple systems such as voice mail.  Telephone on the Internet, that could represent a market of US$200 billion in the year 2004, has already begun to spread throughout the world, while Haiti remains in the past regarding telecommunications.

Garry Saint-Germain suggested that we should be imaginative and receptive to technological innovations, and develop services that are useful to the communities in order to improve the fate of the people, by designing new services or rethinking old ones.

Professionals have the opportunity to create web sites with information on Haiti that would be accessible, or be sold when some conditions of viability are met.  Professionals could, similar to the pioneers of the Internet, offer useful new goods and services worldwide.  This supposes the creation of a suitable environment to allow potential investors to find the necessary means to realize these initiatives.

Aware of the need to offer quality services as competition is becoming tougher, the secondary Internet service providers try to become primary providers.

“All novelties available on the Internet come from the initiatives of small companies or several individuals that joined to assume very high risks, which the heavy bureaucracies of  big companies would hesitate to endorse.  Besides the Microsoft Corporation where Bill Gates involves himself personally, it is only AT&T, Ericsson and CISCO that have joined in, by acquiring small companies for forming research groups,” Jean-Baptiste informed.

 Caribbean search engines

Romany – www.romany.net

Caribe Search – www.caribesearch.com

Caribseek – www.caribseek.com

The expansion of the Internet will force all the sectors of Haiti, in particular the one of Education, to redefine themselves. The university, where a unit has received support from the Haitian division of the Association of Universities Partially or Totally in the French Language (AUPELF), as well as some schools, have initiated curricula on the Internet.  Several kindergartens in Port-au-Prince are seriously considering to have introductory computer sessions for the children in advanced grades.

“The learning process is being questioned.  Imagine a child from the Northwest of Haiti, studying geography and asking a teacher who is in the Central Plateau if there is fish in the Guayamouc (Aguamucho) river, as a comparison to the drought that has hit his region for several months!” Reynold Pauyot of REHRED stated, thinking of opportunities for using the Internet in Haiti.

The energy costs of Internet access remains borne by institutions working in research, development and information. But, Internet service providers should offer more services outside of Port-au-Prince, Pauyot added.  REHRED which mission consists of developing the exchange of information between its members, the Haitians living abroad and other researchers interested in Haitian issues, strives to encourage its members to use the Internet as a research and development tool, and become more efficient in their capacity to distribute the information that they produce.

“Even people who do not know how to read or write could become producers of information instead of being induced to consume only, such as sitting down in front of a television to follow some specific broadcasts,” Odile Reiher, chairwoman of REHRED indicated.

REHRED has already began to feel the effects of awareness campaigns implemented through its members.  Pauyot mentioned the cases of the Information Service of the Centre for Research and Action on Development (SICRAD) that regularly produces information (such as those contained in the magazine “KOMÈ”, on women issues), the National Association of Haitian Agro-Professionals (ANDAH) that tries to provide information on its activities and produces articles on agriculture, and the Office of Mines and Energy that produces an on-line magazine named “Synergy” as well as other information on renewable energy, etc.

Several media of Port-au-Prince have begun to take information from the Internet for use in their news programming; but, few have sites on the network of the networks. The radio station Vision 2000 broadcasts directly on the Internet.  Some magazines published abroad, as well as the daily paper, Le Nouvelliste, and the Haitian Press Agency (AHP) have sites on the Internet.  The site for the Agency Haiti News Network (HNN) is currently under construction and will be hosted by Haitiweb Communications at the same address as a local site of the Inter Press Service (IPS).

Some institutions of reference:

Alpha Communication Network (ACN)

48 rue Lamarre

Pétion-ville

Tel: (509) 256-4404/4405

email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Companet

272, rue du Magasin de l’État

Port-au-Prince

Tel: (509) 223-9894/222-3205/3271

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hintelfocus

17 rue Darguin

Pétion-ville

Tel: (509) 257-8747

www.haitiworld.com

HaitiWeb Communications

16 rue Malval, Turgeau

Port-au-Prince

Tel: (509) 245-9393

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

GlobelSud

Place Eden

Pétion-ville

Tel: (509) 256-0876/7498/7499

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Réseau télématique haïtien pour la recherche et le développement (REHRED)

25 Babiole, Port-au-Prince

Tel: (509) 245-9694

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Réseau de développement durable en Haïti (RDDH)

c/o PNUD/ECMU, 43-45 ave. John Brown

Port-au-Prince

Tel: (509) 223-4625/4705/222-8511

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

L’Agence francophone pour l’enseignement supérieur et la recherche (AUPELF-UREF)

Rue Dufort, Building “ Faculté Linguistique Appliquée”, UEH, Bois-Verna

Tel: (509) 245-4408/0567

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Télécommunications d’Haïti (TELECO)

Siège central: Angle Ave M L King & Rue Fernand

Pont Morin

Tel: (509) 245-2400/222-3300/223-2200

Conseil National des Télécommunications (CONATEL)

16 Blvd Harry Tuman, Bicentenaire

Tel: (509) 222-0300/222-0579/223-0720

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


[1] Ives Marie Chanel is Correspondent in Haiti with Inter Press Service (IPS).  Ronald Colbert is a free-lance journalist. 

[2] “Almanach Statisque 1999″ (Almanac Statistics 1999), GDP per capita (price current in Gourdes = 7770), Haitian Institute of Statistics and Informatics (IHSI), e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[3] Le Nouvelliste: “Les conférences de Infotel Expo 99 à Jacmel” (The Conference Infotel Expo 99 in Jacmel), 7 July 1999, p.4

[4] “Internet Use in the Caribbean – ECLAC Survey: Preliminary report and analysis of results,” Sandra John, Caribbean Documentation Centre, June 1999.

[5] The Latin Union is a cultural organization with educational objectives which encompasses Spanish and French-speaking countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.  It is affiliated to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

[6] REHRED’s establishment was delayed during the period of the military coup (1991–1994).  Through the Internet, it tries to facilitate the exchange and production of information by academic, developmental and public institutions.  Following an initial effort in 1991 by the Latin Union, which later became “FUNREDES” (Networks Fund), REHRED was really set up in 1996 by a founding assembly of 25 members. 

[7] “Internet Use in the Caribbean – ECLAC Survey: Preliminary report and analysis of results,” Sandra John, Caribbean Documentation Centre, June 1999.

[8] Le Nouvelliste: “Quelles perspectives pour la TELECO?” (Which perspectives for TELECO?), 6 October 1999, p.2.

[9] Le Nouvelliste: “Internet n’est pas en cause, mais brusque hausse des revenus de la TELECO depuis une semaine” (Internet is not the cause, but rapid increase of TELECO’s revenues since a week), 4 October 1999, p.1 

[10] Exchange rate US$1.00 = 17.00 Gourdes.

[11] World Report on Human Development 1999, UNDP

[12] “Le français plus présent dans le monde avec Internet” (French more present in the world with the Internet), Le Nouvelliste, 30 June 1999.

[13] Almanach Statistique 1999 (Almanac Statistics 1999), IHSI.

[14] World Bank data, 1998.

[15] Caribbean Week, July 1998, page 31: “Internet in the Caribbean.”  www.cweek.com

[16] Caribbean Week, 1 June 1999.

[17] “Anniversaire du CONATEL sur fond de crise à la veille de TELECOM 99,” (Anniversary of a CONATEL in crisis at the eve of TELECOM 99), Le Nouvelliste, 29 September 1999, p.2