By Onz Chery
The International Development Association (IDA) has approved a $60 million project to provide faster, cheaper internet access and other digital services in Haiti, the organization has announced.
The World Bank, IDA’s parent organization, approved the Haiti Digital Acceleration Project on Oct. 9. Its main goal is to increase access to broadband services and help Haiti’s “digital resilience” so it can better withstand health, climate and economic shocks. This project is the seventh, totalling nearly $278 million, that The World Bank has approved for Haiti this year.
Haiti’s inability to enter the virtual world became more evident when the novel coronavirus struck earlier this year. People still met face-to-face despite the spread of the virus because residents have slow internet or don’t have the digital materials to continue their work or school programs. Plus, electricity is spotty.
“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the essential role that digital technologies play both during and after crisis,” Anabela Abreu, The World Bank’s country director for Haiti, said in a statement. “More widespread and affordable internet access could make Haiti more resilient to future shocks.”
The project is approved to start in 2021 and to close in 2026, according to documents available on The World Bank’s website. The project will support natural disaster enterprises by providing critical communications systems, databases, and public services. It will also help residents acquire digital skills. And with an easier digital platform to navigate through and more skilled individuals, more employment will be available as a by-product, according to The World Bank’s overview of the project.
“This is a huge step forward for the country,” said Morgan Mendis, a co-founder of Ayiti Analytics, a data lab based in Haiti. “It will open up a whole new sector in the economy for Haitians. People will engage and interact with technology in a new way.”
Ayiti Analytics held the first data science bootcamp in Haiti between March and August. After they switched from in-person classes to virtual sessions because of COVID-19 in May, Ayiti Analytics had to provide phone plans to students so they could use internet hotspots from home.
Hotspots are included in the Haiti Digital Acceleration Project, which would make not only Ayiti Analytics’ load lighter but also other technological enterprises and schools.
“Having better internet access is definitely going to make it easier to train more people,” Mendis said. “I’m excited about this project.”
Digital Acceleration highlights
In the detailed project information document, the group lists the following among key benefits or components of implementing the Digital Acceleration Project:
- Faster, cheaper internet access and hotspots.
- Digital training for residents and businesses.
- Critical communications systems, databases, and public services for natural disasters or external shocks.
- Financing of intergovernmental network services.
- Connectivity to key public sectors, such as Disaster Risk Management, health and education.
Other projects recently funded
In addition to the $60 million Digital Acceleration Project, The World Bank has funded six additional projects in Haiti totalling $217.8 million in funding since January 2020.
The projects range from COVID-19 relief to a Caribbean regional air transport connectivity to a Cap Haitien urban development project.
The Bank’s projects for Haiti dating back to 2018 total $534 million.
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