Internet Society Newspaper V2 N2, 1993

Toward the Haitian Research Network. By Daniel Pimienta,
[email protected]
Redalc Projects Manager


Haiti is known as the less developed country of Latin America and the Caribbean, with figures closer to Africa than to America. The recent political history shows a difficult process toward democracy and persistent turmoils. If the research environment, as in other part of the sub-region, is weak, in qualitative and quantitative terms (some 1000/2000 researchers), the large number of acting NGO's and the importance, in any standards, of the Haitian "diaspora" makes the creation of a research network a basic priority for both development and democratic growths.

In the past years, there have been some intents to trigger the process both from inside and outside the country: all have been unable to overcome the political up and down's of Haiti. The institutional logic of the cooperation process have represented a clear obstacle to keep on with projects because of fast and often violent changes in the country's political paths. There is a clear evidence that some new way to make things happen is required there. It is also sad and paradoxical to recognize that the very situation which effects cause obstacles in the process of creation of a research network, should, on the countrary, justify the absolute urgency for the existence of this network!

Among the efforts, we are aware, that have tried to make converge the process, trying to make a fusion of the inside and outside initiatives, the REDALC project and one of it's by-products, the Dominican network (REDID) have been consistently present. In June 91, a REDALC project's 10 days mission was successfully set-up and, beside the diagnostic established, some sensitization and momentum effects were obtained. Unfortunately, the planned participation of Haitian representatives in the first REDALC International Workshop (held in Santo Domingo, in July 91) was not well managed. The initial idea of the creation of the Dominican Network (one of the decisions emerging from this workshop) was based on the cooperation of both countries. Few steps were done that way but, again, REDID was born in May 92, without the counterpart birth on the other side of the frontier. By the end of 92, with the support of UNESCO/Cresalc, a draft project (based on the idea to organize Haitian users and technicians training, abroad, in Martinica) was defined by Union Latina and the status was to look after complementary support to move on.

This "unachieved story" had some positive side effects: -the arising of the Haitian network objectives as a priority item in the national and international priority agendas, -the maturation of an appropriate strategy and methodology, -and, overall, the emergence of a motivated and coordinated group of people, in both side of the frontier.

The catalyze of all the ingredients happened in Santo Domingo, between the 1Oth and the 14th of May 93, during a workshop held in the Redalc Office, with the financial support of Union Latina, the Constitutional Haitian Embassy, Unesco/Cresalc, the University of Quebec, four Haitian NGOs (Inter-OPD, GHRAP, CRESFED and CREDIP) and the participation of an Haitian representative set of people belonging to the research or telecommunication fields.

To restate the general impression expressed, after completion, during the evaluation: "WE ALL GOT THE CONVICTION THAT SOMETHING IMPORTANT AND UNBEATABLE WAS BORN, AND WE ARE ALL COMITTED TO WORK FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A NETWORK WHICH WILL DRASTICALLY CHANGE THE REALITY OF RESEARCH IN OUR COUNTRY".

Which are the factors which lead to that positive conclusion?

1) The quality and representativeness of the Haitian coordination group formed (a telematic specialist chairing a value-added network company with branches in Haiti, Dominican Republic and Miami, and key representatives of the University, the agronomic research sector, some NGO's, including an association which articulates most of them and, indirectly, official representatives of the telecommunications).

2) The expressed and demonstrated will to open the process to all the research sectors (the group is now being extended to the private University Kiskeya and the documentation sector).

3) The level of agreement on the basic statements toward the network: *The project must be conducted independently of the political, present, immediat future and other possible subsequent changes. *The network will be open to all research entities with no consideration of political or ideological belonging. *The REDALC methodology and the existing Union Latina draft project can be use as basis and adapted whenever necessary, in a participative fashion. *The technical solution must shown the capacity to be strongly resistent to catastrophes, being natural or not.

Last, but not least, the impressive follow-up realized since then:
*Transitory connection realized between the two part of the island, thanks to the support of a private company, *Systematic implementation of the first steps of the prepared action plan, including the organization of public activities and working groups.

What's up next?
The action plan contemplate a Haitian participation in INET93 and the Caracas 3rd regional meeting. A steering comitee has been formed with people agreeing to dedicate at least 25% of their working time. Meetings are being organized and scheduled back in Haiti to create the user base and participation. Funds are being looked after to make the process accelerate. A listserv is being open in Venezuela ([email protected]) to help Haitian Diaspora participate in the process.

The tentative target date for implementation is by end of the year.

More details will be found in the August edition of Matrix News. More information can be request directly to the author or will be forwarded, on request, by the author to the Haitian Steering Comitee. Organisations and people interested in bringing support and/or constructive participation are invited to identify themselves and formulate offers.