Technology Sector in Haiti: There is an interest, there is yet to be a commitment

  • Posted by Marina Vatav
  • June 6, 2013 9:09 AM EDT
  • 0 comments
  • 3,544 views

Information Technology is a growing sector in Haiti, just like it is in most countries around the world, but the majority of Haitian companies are still resisting to embrace modern technology in their daily operations. As a result, the Haitian market is not growing as fast as it possibly can.

In comparison to the developed markets companies use such tools as Customer Management Systems to help them manage communication with their customers; accounting software to track revenues and expenses; and others applications to manage inventory and human resources. They build websites to promote their products and services. They may use online surveys for market research, etc. Technology can certainly help companies improve operations, boost marketing, and be more competitive.

Technology is present in Haiti, however, it is not widely spread as managers choose (or have to) to do business the traditional way.

Giles Charleston has been involved in the IT sector in Haiti since 2004. He is the co-founder of AvanGarde Consulting, a technology consultancy company.

"There is an interest, a desire, but there is not necessarily yet a validation that this is a need that must be fully integrated and inherently part of your business strategy. And the reason is that a lot of the businesses in Haiti are underfunded. They are surviving, " notes Mr. Charleston.

The Demand and Supply Puzzle

The companies that embrace and use technology in Haiti tend to be medium or large size businesses, and some government agencies. Therefore, the existing local IT companies may not have a wide enough market in Haiti.

"The potential is there but, obviously, in order for them [ICT Companies] to grow more there needs to be more opportunities in the pipeline that would allow them to engage more," says Giles Charleston.

"The challenge in the context of Haiti, in my experience, is that because it is not a market that is fully developed, where the ability of a client to value certain services has matured at this point, in order for you to continue and survive as a business player you will tend to morph into what the needs are versus what you know your competitive advantages are and what your competencies are. And that's a tricky part. Because, if you start morphing into what you no longer are, the quality is going to suffer, the ability to deliver is going to suffer, and essentially you would have missed your overall business mission and strategy," continues Charleston.

After the earthquake, many companies had to cease their operations because their facilities were affected and their vital documents were lost. Going digital could have saved a lot of important data.

"One argument we have right now to make some of our clients embrace technology is the earthquake that happened two years ago. Big companies lost a lot of data because their buildings collapsed. We used to keep their information on paper and we tell them now, ‘you see, if all your information was digitalized and you could keep them in different locations, you would have backups and you would have been able to have business continuity because you would have access to your data.’ Unfortunately, It's taking time. It's a very slow process, but that's why we organize those kind of fairs [E2Tech: Technology, Energy and Environment Fair] to build awareness so that people adapt technology, and make them understand why they have to embrace it to be more competitive and effective. That can bring more money to the country and have the economy we are looking for," says Reynold Guerrier, businessman, and president of AHTIC, Haitian Association of Information Technology and Communication, organizer of E2Tech.

Challenges

The development pace of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in Haiti does not only depend on the local market size.

The biggest challenges that affect all the sectors of the economy and the ICT sector in particular are the electricity shortage and the limited access to credit.

One solution for meeting the 24/7 energy needs is building the technology microparks.

"Because you cannot provide power pervasively throughout the country, you can cluster the needs of a business sector in one central park, in an IT offshore park, in a micro technology park. That will allow the needs of these business sectors to be directly accessible within that sector," says Giles Charleston.

Offshoring could be an opportunity for Haiti

Many developing countries have seized the opportunity to advance their ICT industries. It's a sector that crosses geographic boundaries. You can access the global market from anywhere there is power and Internet connection. Haiti could benefit from choosing to be an IT offshore destination, assuming it will come up with a solution for its energy supply shortage.

"There are opportunities in IT offshoring, but because of the challenges that Haiti faces with electricity not being readily available, having to compensate for sporadic power losses or power outages you would need to complement with generators for backup power source, that makes it difficult in terms of considering Haiti an IT offshore environment," says Giles.

Right now there are very few companies in Haiti that offer ICT outsourcing services. Just a simple search on Google for basic keywords such as "Web services in Haiti", or "technology services in Haiti" did not bring any relevant results.

"We have maybe 4-6 enterprises in the outsourcing fields and they are all involved in call center services for now, but not in other areas, like data entry or other field of the industry," says Reynold Guerrier , president of AHIC.

"For the private sector, outsourcing is one of the things we are trying to promote right now. But in the Government, as far as I know, there is no master plan for that. I didn't see anything about this so far." "They need to have a master plan and say: this is the direction we decided to take in terms of technology. But this is still missing, that's why it's taking us longer to make Haiti an ICT destination like India, for example."

Pioneers of Change

E2Tech fair organized by AHTIC has been promoting the use of technology for the last five years. Its third edition took place this month and included conferences and discussions, as well as product presentations. It is one of the few events in Haiti that push for adaption of technology at a larger scale. It introduces the latest trends and developments in the industry to its thousands of attendees, students, professionals, and company representatives.

Giles Charleston notes that the development of the technology sector in Haiti could be boosted by ICT companies themselves by taking a pro-active approach in promoting technology. He noted:

"As a company you also need to invest yourself in the soft side of your mission, which to me means social responsibility, community involvement, and community empowerment. What does that mean? That means venturing into inciting the sector, injecting in the sector interest by sponsoring forums, seminars, and educational competitions--things of that nature, where youth can understand and be able to get engaged in the technology.”

0 comments