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Making the case for a knowledge economy in Haiti

Fritz-Gerald Louis's picture

Today, the growth potential of a country depends on the creativity, innovation and expertise of its citizens.

Strong international competition driven by globalization—between states, businesses and individuals—is fast increasing the importance of knowledge and education.

Multinational firms look for a skilled workforce, able to create and master new technologies. They are also looking to reduce their production costs, and are moving their factories to countries where they can find these skills at competitive prices.

Labor is cheaper in poor countries, and Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. In theory, Haiti should be able to easily attract foreign investment.

However, the low cost of labor in Haiti is not sufficient to make the country attractive.

One of the most important factors in competitiveness is knowledge. It is imperative for Haiti to successfully adapt school and university education to the needs of the new global economy, particularly in the ICT (information and communication technologies) sector that is generating new opportunities around the world.

To increase young Haitians’ chances of employment, courses such as Information Technology, English and Economics should be taught long before college. Training courses should enable young people to become experts and innovators in areas that interest them.

The world’s major digital start-ups (mostly American) have been created mainly by people under 25. It proves that with the necessary skills, young people can create the pillars of long term growth and development.

However, Haiti lags behind in educating its young. It is estimated that more than two million Haitian children have never attended school, representing a significant brake on economic growth.

Public policies on education are almost nonexistent, and the country allocates only a small portion of its GDP for education. Moreover, the education is ill-suited to the new economy.

The Haitian government needs to increase access to education, and improve its quality. We must find a way to finance the purchase and distribution of modern equipment, and create more libraries in public schools.

It is also necessary to ensure that teachers receive quality training, and textbooks distributed to students are relevant. Using ICT is one way to tackle this problem. With an Internet connection, students can access a wealth of up-to-date information and knowledge at a low cost.

I am convinced of the need for Haiti to work on the integration of ICT in education. Imagine the impact that the Internet could have on education in primary and secondary schools in Haiti. The teachers could more easily develop lesson plans that stir students' curiosity and stimulate their desire to learn.

Currently, University of California at Berkeley (United States) provides free online courses in sociology on Youtube, and many other prestigious universities broadcast lectures on the Internet. Internet access is all you need to take advantage of courses offered at the best universities in the world.

In addition, the Web is full of exciting articles and interviews that can inspire young students and entrepreneurs in Haiti.

The Haitian government cannot afford to equip its schools with this equipment, so a public/private partnership is essential to making this happen. The result will benefit both the state and private sectors.

In short, to put Haiti back on track for growth, young people must be able to move forward and bring new dynamics to economic, social and political development. Access to high-quality, relevant knowledge is a prerequisite to improving the situation in Haiti in the context of globalization.

Photo Credits: © Anthony Salcito - Microsoft


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