Thursday, April 15, 2010

Getting a project organized

I have been working a lot since Monday to get the Ministry of Education infrastructure project organized.

Infrastructure is one of the buzz words running around our world these days. It really means the back end of a computing center. You access infrastructure when you go to Google to look up something; when you sign on to a bank; when you use email or SMS texting. The work is actually done on banks of servers. That is the infrastructure. I have made a living for 31 years building the stuff. It's not very interesting work but it is a good living.

The Haitian government had IT infrastructure before the earthquake. When the Ministry of Education's building collapsed it crushed all of the servers. The desktop computers, laptops and printers as well. When Andree and I met with the Director General of the Ministry he identified the creation of a new ministry infrastructure as the most critical function that was yet to be restored.

Restoring schools to function is a high priority of the Haitian government as well as with many of the NGOs operating in the nation. Without access to student academic records the school system is hamstrung.

I have presented the technical requirements for the infrastructure to IBM for provision of the equipment. I have not had a response yet I hope to get that in the next days. I have also reached out to some additional suppliers if that source of equipment does not work out. I will get this done.

I have located one of the very important pieces of equipment: a brand new 10 KVA UPS system. That is an expensive proposition and all I have to do is get it shipped. This is probably the most expensive individual piece of equipment. Total cost on this project is going to be in the neighborhood of $ 200,000.00.

I have volutneers in line to do the technical engineering. Our analysis of the requirements (the tech design is about complete) is that it will be about 12 days of work.

I am working on acquiring some cash dollars to cover the volunteers' expenses. All of the volunteers are willing to cover their expenses but based on last week's trip I want to try to cover those costs. A week in Port-au-Prince is costly these days when one considers air travel, driver and car, hotel, food and all of the costs that go along with travel.

So I will let everyone know how things go. It is an exciting project with high value to the people of Haiti. My target is project initiation by the first of May with completion by the end of the month.


Monday, April 12, 2010

A comment from the Red Cross

Gloria Huang posted a comment to today's post clarifying the shelter situation from the Red Cross perspective. I thought that it would be courteous to reproduce the post on the main blog so that everyone will see it without clicking on 'comment' on the original post. I want to thank MS Huang for the clear report.
Gloria Huang said... Hi Rick,

I work at the American Red Cross headquarters and am hoping that I can help clarify the tent issue you mentioned above.

I think that the report you are referencing actually states that we have provided over 1 million people with shelter materials, which include tents and tarps and other shelter supplies. Our goal has been to provide emergency shelter materials to all of the estimated 1.3 million homeless by May 1st, when rains are expected to reach their peak.

We also plan to help construct transitional shelters out of timber or steel as soon as possible, as more rubble is cleared and other factors like land ownership are resolved.

As far as tarps versus tents goes, Red Cross workers on the ground are conversing with survivors to decide whether to provide a tarp or a tent. Factors in this decision process include: amount of rubble in the area, size of family unit, who is most vulnerable, the survivors’ needs, and which item would work best for them as a transitional shelter until a more permanent one can be found or built.

Shelter is definitely a priority right now. We actually just released a three month report on Haiti relief, which I hope will help provide you with more detail:

Feel free to also email me with any other questions you have, and I will do my best to find answers for you. Thanks,

Gloria Huang

We are back in Florida

I had to cut the trip short because of a couple of urgent day job items so Andree and I flew out of PauP Sunday afternoon. Landed in Miami took a cab to Ft. Lauderdale airport picked up the car and drove home. 13 hours total travel time a tremendous improvement on previous trips.

We had a bit of a problem getting across the city to the airport because suddenly in the last couple of days there are dump trucks and small bulldozers (mostly Bobcats) everywhere. The rubble cleanup accelerated in the four days we were there and by Sunday morning the dust in the air was as thick as it was immediately after the earthquake. That is a positive. Roads that were clear six weeks ago now have rubble piles in them as the people of the city move rubble from the collapsed buildings to the roadside. That is the sytem the government has set up: move the rubble to the roadside and the government will pick it up. That is the same process used for removal of bodies immediatley after the earthquake; it seems to be working.

We saw a number of frame buildings being put up on cleared city lots. Frame construction with tin roofs.

Today is when schools have been told to reopen. There is a lot of anxiety for people on this; they want their children to go to school however many of the schools are private and charge fees and most of those who had jobs no longer are employed as most businesses shut down due to either destruction of the business or loss of customer base. Another concern is that it is very difficult to move around and transporting students is going to take hours back and forth every day.

On the negative side I read a Red Cross report last week that more than one million tents have been distributed and most of the population has a tent. We went from PauP to Leogane to Jacmel on Saturday (a very interesting trip) and the majority of the population is living in makeshift shelter still. I have no idea where all of these tents are going.

Even with a tent the living conditions continue to be horrible for the displaced. The tents are right next to the roads; sometimes in the roads; and are covered with thick dust. Even with daily heavy rain the dust is pervasvie I have a sore throat just from breathing it for three days. I can not imagine having a small child living in a tent at or on the road breathing that all of the time.

This, my third trip to Haiti after the earthquake, was the first trip where it was necessary to have money. There are hotels and restauraunts and taxis. Not many and there are waiting lists for rooms. And things, for us at least, have gotten very expensive. Three nights in a hotel and two meals a day cost us just under a thousand dollars. A couple of club sandwiches and Coke for lunch runs around $ 50 without tip. Ouch. For what we spent on this trip we could have had a nice vacation. Drivers and ancillary costs and airplanes and all that and it got expensive.

I am of two minds about spending money like this to stay in a hotel I would not even go near here in the USA. On the one hand I do not like the high prices however pumping $ 1,000 a day into the tourism and hotel economy can not be a bad thing for Haiti.

That's all for now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three days in PauP

Andree and I have spent the last three days going from 6 AM until 11 PM. An amazing amount can be accomplished if you do not sleep.

We are still in Haiti at the Hotel Oloffson (Google it a very cool and funky place) and will fly home tomorrow. We made amazing progress on the infrastructure projects.

We visited a small orphanage on Friday afternoon. Michael and Mathieu had been there and provided initial subsistence aid. Andree and I went there with a couple of duffel bags of things for the kids. Get this: A young Haitian couple is caring for 39 children around the clock. They live up a small hill from blasted ruins that you have to climb over to get to.

I aggreed to help Jean Prospere Alneus

He and his wife do this on their own. They have nothing. Yet they feed house wash and educate 39 resident children and another 46 day students. We took a few small things and gave them all our cash when we left. Amazing place.

We need to help them. I will set up some web assistance.

I will post (when we are back in the US) some video of this group. The children are clean and happy and they would be stone dead without Jean and his wife.

Friend him; he is posting updates on Facebook.

A great trip. This nation and this large city are still mortally wounded. There are still huge problems in delivery of basic subsistence to hundreds of thousands. Haitians are essentially saying 'screw the international community and 'our own government' and going forward with rebuilding. That is bad because they are just trying to survive and will make bad choices in the construction.

More Sunday or Monday when I am back in the US. Send me an email if you want to help Jean Prosper and his wife (I did not get her name damn it) and I will let you know how to do it. 39 beuatiful kids.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Technical Academy of Haiti (Tech-Haiti)

Here is the startup phase action plan for Tech-Haiti. Comments welcome.

It is a large task and is going to take a lot of time, a lot of people and a lot of money. The payoff is tremendous. Formatting does not seem to work in this blogger post.

Building an information economy in Haiti This project is an ambitious endeavor to build an international information economy in the nation of Haiti. Haiti has numerous advantages as a location to construct a vibrant information economy that is capable of providing excellent technology services to the worldwide customer base at a very reasonable cost. By combining the very low cost to employ an educated workforce there is the potential to transform the lives of many of the citizens of Haiti. The construction of an information technology infrastructure that will provide for well paying jobs for hundreds or thousands of Haitians is not a simple task. To be successful this project will require significant investments of funds, time and expertise. Success will be achieved on that day when all international entities involved in the construction of the various components of the project have exited operational activities and the employees/owners of the Haitian corporate entity have assumed responsibility for the future success of all involved entities. This project will encompass a number of phases. Each phase is critical to the overall success. The phases as presently envisioned are:

1. Startup Phase
a. Create operational entities
i. US 503 (1) C to fund startup and construction
ii. Haitian for-profit corporation
iii. Empanel boards of directors for operational entities
iv. Empanel advisory boards for operational entities
b. Secure startup funding
i. Hire project executive
ii. Locate and secure temporary facility
iii. Hire Haitian student instructors
iv. Fund expatriate instructor corps
c. Create mission statement
d. Secure operational integration of Haitian entities
i. Ministry of Education
ii. Ministry of Commerce and Technology
iii. Education entities in Haiti
iv. Community and citizen groups
e. Solicit proposals from educational design sources for curricula
i. English as Second language (ESOL)
ii. Fundamental literacy skills
iii. Call center skills
iv. Programming skills (JAVA)
v. Server operations
vi. Networking
f. Design candidate entrance exam-preliminary
g. Solicit candidate applications
h. Design permanent infrastructure
i. Technology
1. Computing infrastructure including storage
2. Network infrastructure
3. Operating systems
4. Application software
ii. Facility
1. Create detailed specification for permanent facility
2. Solicit design proposals for facility including housing, technical, power, water
and sewer.
3. Determine location of permanent facility
4. Solicit construction bids from contractors (prime to be Haitian)
5. Develop capital budget for permanent facility
6. Identify sources of capital funding

Thursday, April 1, 2010

News events and other things

I see it has been six weeks since I posted.

Haiti has fallen out of the twenty four hour news cycle. A bit of coverage this week as the UN Donor conference was held in New York.

Living conditions are horrible in Port au Prince as had been predicted. I am not working that much but rather putting lots of hours into long term planning. There is great concern everywhere that I go that the money Haiti will recieve be used properly.

The government of Haiti is slowly putting together the broad outline of the reconstruction plan. That is not an accurate name as the initiative is to build a totally new Haiti.

The picture on technological infrastructure and operations in Haiti has cleared up somewhat. There are a couple of broadband vendors in operation: AccessHaiti and MultiLink with whom I worked in February. Inveno, a telecoms charity, has a rural broadband project in conjunction with MultiLink. That project is in need of funding. The dollars are low ($ 300,000) in comparisson to the hundreds of thousands who will receive service. That project is 'shovel ready' so to speak so if anyone knows of a donor interested in fundamentally changing the future of tens of thousands of people let me know. I can make the connection.

I continue to work on the plan for a technical academy for Haiti. This academy will train Haitians first to teach other Haitians. The technical focal points will be skills necessary to provide outsource technical services to clients around the world. There is an excellent article on the power of broadband to change a society in the Economist of London newspaper (it's actually a weekly newsmagazine) this week. That project will be submitted to IBM Corporation's community and humanitarian organization for funding. I expect IBM will come through on some of the project however I will have to find funding for a lot of it. The phase one plan is finally complete in draft and out for comment to the Haitian government and some interested parties. Once that document is in 'gold' state I will post it here and on Facebook.

Lastly I am working with Save the Children and the Haitian Ministry of Education. The project there is two part: There is a need for technological capability in the Minstry itself. The earthquake destroyed the building and computers of the Ministry therefore they need the whole infrastructure. The second part is to put a 20 computer lab in each of 150 schools in Haiti. Again I am going to IBM for their KidSmart program; I haven't had any response on that project as yet. I did meet with IBM's VP of corporate giving in February and was given strong encourgement both on the academy and on the children's computers for schools. Take a look at IBM's KidSmart devices they are fascinating. Google IBM KidSmart.

I am planning to be in Port-au-Prince late next week for meetings with Save the Children; the Ministry of Public Works ( on the academy); the Minsitry of Education (Ministry infrastructure and school labs); a small orphanage that I a going to look at and assess need.

I will try and do a better job of keeping this up. I am using Facebook as a consolidator of Haitian and non-Haitian contacts so anyone wanting to keep up daily is welcome to friend me. What a term eh?