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[March 18, 2014]
Haiti makes hi-tech, low-cost tablet [Daily News (South Africa)]
(Daily News (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) PORT-AU-PRINCE: Better known for producing third-world poverty and political mayhem - as well as a world-class rum - the western hemisphere's least developed country has made a surprising entry into the hi-tech world with its own Android tablet.
Sandwiched between textile factories in a Port-au-Prince industrial park next to a slum, a Haitian-founded company has begun manufacturing the low-cost tablet called Sûrtab, a made-up name using the French adjective "sûr", meaning "sure", to suggest reliability.
Unlike the factories next door where low-paid textile workers churn out cheap undergarments for the US market, Sûrtab workers are equipped with soldering irons, not sewing machines.
Dressed in sterile white work clothes, and a hair net, Sergine Brice is proud of her job. "I never imagined I could, one day, make a tablet by myself," she said.
Unemployed for a year after losing her position in a phone company, Brice, 22, was not |sure she had the skills when |she took the job after Sûrtab opened last year.
"When I arrived and realised the job deals with electronic components, I was wondering if I would be able to do it. But when I finished my first tablet… I felt an immense pleasure." Her family and friends were sceptical. "None of them believed me," she said. "Tablets made in Haiti? What are you talking about?" they told her.
"Haitians have in our minds the idea that nothing can be done in this country. I proved that yes, we Haitians have the capacity to do many things," she said. "It's not just Americans or Chinese. We've got what they've got, so we can do it too." With $200 000 (R2.1 billion) in start-up funds from the US Agency for International Development (USAid), and using imported Asian components, the factory produces three models all with 18cm screens that run on Google's Android operating system.
They range from a simple wifi tablet with 512 megabytes of RAM for about $100 (R1 072), to a 3G model with 2 gigabytes of memory for $285 (R3 057).
The small factory with 40 employees is a throwback to the 1970s and 1980s when Haiti had a thriving assembly industry, |including computer boards, as well as baseballs for US professional teams.
Political turmoil, and a US economic embargo in the 1990s following a military coup, put them out of business. - Reuters Daily News (c) 2014 Independent Newspapers (Pty) Limited. All rights strictly reserved. Provided by Syndigate.info, an Albawaba.com company
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