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Community Networks 8 October 2020

Community Networks: Improving Connectivity for All in Haiti

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the historic transition brought about by the Internet. Its place is real in our lives today and tomorrow. Celebrate, pray, play, study, work, express yourself … these verbs have been conjugated thousands of times everywhere thanks to the Internet. In Haiti, many suffer from the glaring inequality between Internet access in rural and urban areas. It is clear that tackling these problems comes down to building a safe path towards decentralization of Internet infrastructure here.

The mission of the Internet Society Haiti Chapter (ISOC Haiti) is to promote, on Haitian territory and for the benefit of all, the conditions and tools conducive to the development of an information and knowledge society – respectful of Haitian culture and values. Since 1804, our nation has raised its voice for freedom and equality so that every person may live free and in dignity, while banishing Black slavery on our land. Our motto, ‘’unity is strength,’’ reminds us that together we can achieve unimaginable things to change this nation. ISOC Haiti ​​is aware of the challenges and believes it is time for a sustainable plan of action – and not for speech.

Poor quality and expensive Internet access negatively impacts Haitians living in metropolitan areas, while those in rural towns have no Internet access at all. With a small Beyond the Net grant from the Internet Society Foundation, we ran a six-week community network training for 120 professionals. 87 people graduated from the course, and the plan is for them to train others and work on initiatives to improve connectivity throughout the country. We hope to create an environment conducive to the implementation of community networks. Increased access will enable more users to enter the digital economy. There are enormous opportunities and creativity everywhere in forgotten areas.

We are working with the Internet Society Foundation to create a national state of the Internet report in Haiti. This will give us more precise data to highlight forgotten areas, while also collecting comments from the inhabitants of these areas. The report will be widely shared with actors and stakeholders at the national level, in support of their work promoting Internet access for all in Haiti. The Internet must stay a powerful tool that guarantees human rights and freedoms under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The digital divides that affects our rights reflect and amplify social, cultural, and economic inequalities. The ecosystem of Haiti’s Internet governance actors must take coordinated action to live beyond the generations through concrete actions that the Internet age demands.

The Haitian Chapter produced a book on community networks. You can read it here!

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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