Final ISOC Report: Connecting the Community of Lascahobas, Haiti to the Internet Project Overview
This Internet Society Community Grant enabled our partnered team to bring Internet connectivity to the school of Lascahobas, Haiti. Internet connectivity took place in the second stage of our project: we first installed a 2.4 KiloWatt solar pv powering system at a primary school (the EFACAP school) in Laschaobas, Haiti, and returned in December 2011, to connect this school to the Internet. Their internet, wifi, and all related connectivity equipment is solar-powered. We worked with the locally-based Haitian technicians (previously trained by project partner Inveneo) to install the Internet equipment and connect the school to the long-distance WiFi link in Lascahobas. We subsequently trained the teachers and administration in how to access web pages and the school server, and how to set up email addresses.
Description of the activities undertaken by the project during the final reporting period & results:
On December 13-14, 2011, a partnered team from Illinois Institute of Technology, Green Wifi, and Inveneo worked together to bring solar-powered Internet connectivity to the EFACAP school in Lascahobas, Haiti. Thanks to funding from an Internet Society Community grant, this team first established a long distance Internet connection to the school, and then set up point-to-multipoint wifi hotspots across the school’s campus.
In August 2011, the IIT and Green Wifi team installed a 2.4 Kilowatt solar p.v. powering system at the EFACAP school so that they could charge laptops that had been donated to them, but they had no way to charge. Now that the laptops could be charged, the team’s next goal was to establish an Internet connection, so that the teachers, students, and administration could have access to unlimited information from the world wide web, but also, so that those at the school in Lascahobas would be able to communicate with the team in the US. From the beginning of this project, one of the team’s goals was to enable communication to foster collaboration between the two groups. Being able to communicate over the Internet should facilitate this.
The backbone tower in Lascahobas, to which the EFACAP school is connected, is one of many set up across the country as part of the Inveneo-led Rural Broadband Initiative to form a high-speed wireless backbone across Haiti. This initiative’s objective is to bring affordable, reliable and sustainable broadband access to 6 regions and 20 un-served population centers across Haiti. The Internet Society grant, which enabled our team to leverage the commitment of a two-year anchor tenant contract with the EFACAP school, was a contributing factor towards the Rural Broadband Initiative’s decision to place Internet towers in this region, thereby including it in the national backbone, which means that this grant’s potential reach and contribution to Internet connectivity and use in Haiti go far beyond the single connection at the EFACAP school! It contributed to the establishment of connectivity for two medium-sized cities (and the surrounding regions) that otherwise likely would not have been included in this backbone initiative.
As part of their BATI program, Inveneo is training and certifying local Haitian technicians from regions across the country in Internet connectivity setup and related small-business skills. The EFACAP school Internet installation was used as a hands-on training session for five BATI technicians.
Once the long-distance link from downtown Lascahobas to the (semi-rural) school was established, the team worked together to establish multiple solar-powered WiFI hotspots across the school’s campus. After connectivity was established, the IIT team met with the school’s teachers, only two of whom had ever used the Internet before, to instruct them in how to get online, use search tools and a server, and finally, to set up email addresses.
The EFACAP school in Lascahobas was the recipient of about 400 laptops from a much larger laptop donation that the Haitian Ministry of Education received in 2009, with the stated goal of improving the quality of primary education. However, as is the case with the vast majority of primary schools across Haiti, the EFACAP school had no way to provide the power to charge the laptops—in this school’s case, it was the result of the grid no longer providing them power after the devastating earthquake that hit Port au Prince in 2010.
Our team looks forward to returning to the school in the first half of 2012. While we are confident that the Inveneo BATI team is capable of installing, supporting and maintaining the Internet and related connectivity technology, our team plans to host a training session (for the BATI and beyond) focusing on solar powering technology and on WiFi technology, so that these complementary technologies can similarly be locally supported and maintained. With each visit, we are working to increase local capacities, as well as local support for the project in order that it can be fully locally owned, maintained, and supported.
A list of publications and deliverables created and funded through the Community Grants Programme, if applicable:
The Internet connection was just set up in mid-December 2011. There are not yet any publications about our project. However, the PI intends to write and submit such publications, will acknowledge the ISOC grant in this work, and will forward them on to the Community Grants Programme at that time. Meanwhile, the PI has written and posted several blogs about our project, including on the ISOC Community Grants blog and on Renewable Energy World’s website from which it has been re-posted and/or written about on various other sites.
The project team’s evaluation on the impact of the project in the community who was expected to benefit from the activities, including specific details and examples that verify the impact:
The Internet Society grant, which enabled our team to leverage the commitment of a two- year anchor tenant contract with the EFACAP school, was a contributing factor toward
the Rural Broadband Initiative’s decision to place Internet towers in this region, thereby including it in the national backbone, which means that this grant’s potential reach and contribution to Internet connectivity and use in Haiti go far beyond the single connection at the EFACAP school. Thus, it is not an exaggeration to say that the Internet Society Grant enabled us to identify an anchor tenant in Lascahobas to Inveneo, which in turn influenced their establishment of a central communications tower in Lascahobas that forms a part of a nation-wide high-speed wireless Internet backbone, and this will provide Internet connectivity to numerous new clients in the region. In addition, the decision to extend the Backbone and place another communications tower in Belladere, a mid-sized city further East of Lascahobas, may also have been positively influenced by the work our team did (and the anchor tenant we supplied), all of which was a result of the Internet Society Community Grant funding.
More specifically, at the EFACAP school, the administrators (who have already communicated to us through the new connection), the teachers, and the students will all have Internet access—about 400 people in total. The school is discussing further ways in which the school’s connection can be leveraged and more widely used.
Since the connection was only established one month ago, examples and details that verify the impact have not been measured, but as time goes on, we hope to be able to monitor the Internet usage remotely and report back on the usage and upkeep of the system.
Methods of disseminating the information gained from completing the project to the wider Internet community
From both of these posts, our project information has already been re-posted on various other sites. See:
We will be also interviewed for an article in the IEEE Foundation’s “The Institute” publication, which should run in April or May 2012.
Ideas and suggestions on how the project may be replicable and sustainable for continued community benefit
For Sustainability: We have spoken with the EFACAP school headmaster and principal about the possibility of making use of the Internet connectivity they now have, and opening it up for the community—for the community’s general benefit, or for the possibility of charging a fee for the Internet use, in order to raise funds to be able to pay the monthly connectivity and maintenance charges once they are no longer covered by external sources. They currently do not have the funds to cover this. Having said that, the only person at the entire school who had an email address before our training session was the Headmaster. Only two other people had ever used the Internet. This is a group of adults who is not yet accustomed to using the Internet, so the mindset of how to use it for bringing in an income for the school may be a long ways off if it is to develop at all. The demand may not yet exist, in this rural location. There is also a language challenge— many of the local residents are not literate, and the language they use is Haitian Creole. There is not a lot of useful content for them at this time. The teachers and administrators at the school can use French, and all the sites we visited were in French. It was quite a challenge to try to get email accounts set up for them, when there are so many steps involved with doing so—they don’t understand, for example, the challenge question/security question concept: Why do they want to know name of the street I grew up on (when most streets in Haiti aren’t named/labeled)? Why do they want to know my favorite book/author? Etc.
For Replicability: We have been working to document all information relevant to our project. In this way, we hope to promote replicability of the project. In addition to this, the academic class in which this project was proposed, designed, and ultimately carried out, is continuing for another semester (although this is its final semester, for internal reasons at IIT). During this semester, we are reconceptualizing our aim, and are building a solar-computer-lab-in-a-box; a turnkey, modular solution that provides DC solar power, laptops, WiFi router, and comes pre-wired, all in one box and the box turns into the furniture. We took the lessons learned from the past three semesters and the large solar system we installed at the EFACAP school: the Ministry of Education, due to a change in political priorities, stopped supporting the laptop project, and therefore their interest in our involvement in the project. In order to avoid that situation repeating itself, and to move forward despite the fact that our main in-country partner is no longer interested in our work, we have decided to pursue the micro-sized, all-in-one computer lab solution, and to target NGOs that support schools, which are usually characterized by long-term relationships between the NGO and the school, and abound across the developing world. They frequently also desire a small-scale, simple solution. We believe we will be meeting this need, and we believe this is a method for moving forward in terms of replicability (and sustainability). Even so, in order to maintain our relationship with the EFACAP school (which we believed would be the responsibility of the Haitian Ministry of Education, but circumstances have proven otherwise), our first field deployment of this turnkey modular computer lab in a box will be at the EFACAP school, where they have an empty room that was designed to hold a computer lab, but they have never had the financial or power capabilities to make this a reality.
Any additional information that would be useful to the Internet Society or the wider Internet community for dissemination and knowledge sharing.
We would like to be able to keep in touch with the Internet Society in order to keep disseminating information about our project, and about our new direction for the project, as we move forward with it.