Internet availability has come a long way since 2000, when a small number of cyber-cafes catered mainly to UN staff. Broadband availability will increase significantly as a result of Digicel's latest project - financing the construction of a USD $16m 200 km undersea cable to Haiti. For a Caribbean country with a large Diaspora, the internet helps people stay connected and do business. It also has untapped potential as a learning tool, helping students to be active rather than passive learners. More information follows.
Given poor access to and accountability of financial institutions in Haiti, much has been written about the potential benefits of mobile money. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Haitian Government are planning 2,000 mobile money transfers over the next three months in support of housing repairs. The funds do not change hands, the possibilities for corruption are reduced, and earthquake survivors can get started rebuilding their homes. The full press release follows.
Thanks to Digicel and Voila Comcel, obtaining a cell phone is the least of your worries when traveling to Haiti. Almost immediately after arriving at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, one spots red and neon green beach umbrellas, under which man holding a string of calling cards and other mobile phone related products. Need a cell phone? No problem.
According to Marketwire, Digicel is celebrating the third anniversary of its launch in Haiti with a customer base of 2.1 million. Digicel's initial investment of US$260 million is the singled largest (legal) investment ever made in Haiti. Digicel is proof that foreign investment can be accountable, profitable, and benefit society. We hope it is a model others will follow.
Caribbean 360 carried an announcement that, by early next year, Haiti will have taken a step toward closer integration into the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy. As part of this deal, CARICOM will carry out public education campaigns to educate Haitains about CARICOM and to educate other Caribbean countries about Haiti. The expansion of Digicel, the largest company in Haiti, shows the potential of the private sector in Haiti. Haiti needs trade more than it needs aid and I hope regional integration will help create much needed employment.
The article below (courtesy of bonpabon) announces that the Digicel Haiti Foundation met its goal of building twenty primary schools in its first year of operation. Digicel, as the largest foreign investor in the history of Haiti, prevents a compelling model for others to follow - a socially conscious corporation that provides a much needed product, employs a substantial number of local staff, and funnels some of its its profits into education projects. It makes sense for Digicel who will need educated employees as it grows and it makes sense for Haiti where long term development will depend on education.