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. 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 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!
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.