Haiti: Market Women Network

Haiti's market women - 80% of Haitian women - are engines for day-to-day commerce in Haiti.  They also carry news about current events, and serve as early warning systems for disaster, disease and violence.  To date, these lynchpins in the Haitian economy and society have not been involved or consulted in the nation’s rebuilding efforts.  Technology solutions have been developed by outsiders, without local women included, creating a loss of leverage for citizen participation and development in Haiti. 

Supporting Haiti’s Market Women: Creating economic opportunity, civil participation, and safety for Haiti’s “unconnected” women

The Women’s Peer-to-Peer Network: Market Women Program is designing and implementing a woman-friendly communications network to connect 55,000 Haitian market women located throughout the country.  We are working in partnership with Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest microfinance organization and Grameen Bank’s Haitian partner. Ultimately, the network will integrate over half a million women now excluded from ICT technology. The program is being led by Haitian women engineering students, with collaboration and support from the global women’s technical community.  The technology and services developed to connect Haiti’s market women will also be adapted and scaled to network the market women in other countries around the world.

Key Issues Facing Market Women

  • High rate of illiteracy renders the bulk of standard technological applications unusable to market women
  • Non-existent / extremely limited access to digital technology
  • Market women reside in rural areas, and travel to remote areas of Haiti
  • Physically and economically vulnerable population

Overcoming the Obstacles: How We're Doing It

The Women’s Peer-to-Peer Network: Market Women Program is integrating mobile phones with community radio and voice applications, and creating local applications tailored to these entrepreneurial market women, with their active input and involvement.  Our program is helping isolated, illiterate women create sustainable businesses, driving Haiti’s reconstruction and development.  Market women are important links in Haiti’s society and economy -- as a key on-the-ground network in Haiti, market women act as human intermediaries to technology, enhancing safety and civic participation among the populace. 

Leveraging Haiti’s Networks

We are leveraging Haiti’s existing infrastructure to accomplish this goal:

  • Fonkoze’s country-wide network of over 55,000 market women
  • Fonkoze’s free call-in center
  • Haiti’s extensive community radio network of over 100 stations
  • Marketplaces and other community gathering spaces

Specific Appliations: Open Source, Infrastructure and Services

  • Voice plug-ins for Frontline SMS (Java-based apps) to allow illiterate women to send group voice messages, aggregated at existing radio stations and call centers
  • Mapping of markets, radio stations, and other social/commercial centers to document connectivity and work as a Crisis Response tool
  • Business applications such as the price of goods sold at markets
  • Response systems created for: violence reporting, disaster response, travel conditions and other needs
  • Phone number registry: To allow organizations, such as our partner, Fonkoze, to stay connected to members using voice-based auto-updating phone registries (market women frequently change phone numbers)

Global Collaboration: What We've Accomplished Together

Historic Hackathon – Cross-Border Collaboration & Community (Building)

  • The Women’s P2P Network executed the first, historic all-women cross-border  codeathon at the Anita Borg  Institute’s Grace Hopper Conference (November 2011), where Haitian women engineers and GHC participants together:
  • Created a prototype of the phone number registry for Fonkoze’s 55,000 market women
  • Created a global, online community platform for ongoing collaboration between in-country and global technical women

In-Country Market Women

  • Citizen reporting: Haiti team videotaped interviews with local market women
  • Conducted technology use surveys of women who are off the communications grid
  • Launched a summer internship program comprised of students from multiple Haiti universities

Education & Press

  • Women’s Peer-to-Peer Founder & Executive Director as featured speaker at Grace Hopper Conference (the largest technical conference for women) in 2011 and 2012
  • Now Annual Women’s P2P Network Codeathon at GHC 2012
  • TED Talk at TEDxWomen: A Celebration of Global Women Entrepreneurs on December 8, 2011

Meet Our Haiti Team of Technical Women>