PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – In our final report on Haiti tonight, we take you back to a factory in Port-au-Prince that’s providing high-tech hope and changing so many lives in the process.
Four years ago, Local 10 was the first to feature the Surtab company. The small tech firm opened Haiti’s first tablet computer factory.
We visited Surtab’s factory four years after the country’s catastrophic earthquake devastated the island nation’s economy. Many people couldn’t believe that Surtab was making computers in Haiti.
“In many cases, we would advertise online,” said Maartan Boute, the founder of Surtab. “They would say this place doesn’t really exist.”
However, years later, the words on the back of the tablet – — “Made in Haiti” — are still making so many, so proud.
On social media, our feature story went viral, thousands watched with pride and optimism while others still remained skeptical.
“What was good about your piece is that it gave us international visibility, and people believed it,” Boute said. “Every single delegation from the U.S. and other countries and places wanted to come here and see that it was real.”
The tablet company has made real progress. More workers have been hired, and the office space has doubled from one long table of android tablet producers since our last visit.
Some workers have moved on from the job like Farah Tilus, an earthquake survivor.
Tilus used her Surtab salary to become an English teacher.
“Things happen. I am very, very lucky,” Tilus said.
Surtab sales are mostly in Haiti. The company offers three models with the least expensive tablet selling at just under $100, and the most expensive is $250.
But to survive in the tough world of tablet production, the company is going back to the basics.
“We have more than 25,000 students using our tablets in various grades for education,” Boute said.
So their team has created an app that serves as a virtual classroom called Sakado, French for backpack. With one of these tablets in hand, students will no longer need backpacks.
The goal is to revolutionize Haiti’s education system and help more students pass the Baccalaureate, the country’s national exam.
“For this December, we had a 14 percent success rate so an 86 percent failure rate,” Boute said. “The reason we developed this app is that we want to get from the 14 percent to 50 to hopefully 80 percent. It improves their ability to get into the workspace, but also improves their ability to get into professional school or maybe win a scholarship to go aboard.”