CompHaiti And Tech Data Partnership Brings Thousands Of Laptops To Haitian Students


CompHaiti SA and Tech Data have teamed up to bring thousands of HP laptops to university students in Haiti, who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford the technology.

The Port-au-Prince, Haiti-based reseller approached Tech Data, after 17 years of partnership, to see if it could help with a local government-funded initiative to get laptops in the hands of local university students.

They are midway through the first phase of the program, which will bring 3,000 laptops to university students.

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The average income per capita for the country is approximately $760, with tuition for the University of Haiti coming in at $15 a year as of 2010. That means a free laptop for a student is huge, Tech Data Director of Marketing for the Latin America and Caribbean Division Deena LaMarque Piquion said, because they probably wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise. Having access to that technology will allow students to take full advantage of their education, she said, and compete better on an international scale.

"We're trying to find something that can be something positive for the Haitian society in which we operate," Ralph Pereira, president and CEO at CompHaiti SA, said.

CRN last spoke to Pereira after the earthquake in Haiti back in 2010, where one of his employees was lost. The business was able to open just three weeks after the earthquake, but the damage to the country itself was devastating, with more than 200,000 people killed and more than 1 million displaced from their homes.

The Haitian government stipend for university students gives them assistance to be able to access laptops for their studies, free of charge. Haiti's President Michel Martelly has made education one of his priorities for the country, including free primary education, teacher training programs and more. The government's stipend agreement for university students is part of that focus.

"I think it is a strong testament to the education campaign in the country. A huge factor for these students is to easily have technology available to them as they complete their university studies. More and more, this is becoming a critical success factor," LaMarque Piquion, who has been working to arrange the effort, said.

The program started with the intention to just deploy 50 laptops in labs, but Pereira said he soon realized that wouldn't be enough. Through a sister foundation, Pereira said they were able to work out a better initiative to provide more laptops and training to help teachers use the technology to its full potential, and then he turned to Tech Data to help secure the best laptops for the job. With the help of Tech Data, a selection of laptop options were chosen from a variety of top HP manufacturers and presented to the end-user client. They ultimately settled on a traditional configuration HP laptop.

"As I'm speaking to you, it is running really fine. We have been, in a week, [placing] more than a thousand of these machines to just the capital city and as I'm looking now, we are looking at about a total of 12,000 units that they are trying to place based on the reaction they are getting from the students," Pereira told CRN early this week.

Pereira said that the project is now moving into the second phase, where the company and foundation are looking for additional funding to provide introductory training on the laptops, which are open source- and Linux-based.

Up next for the reseller, Pereira said that the foundation is working with the government to try to extend the program to find similar subsidies for the future, especially for the 70,000 teachers in the country.

"We're looking at a new project for the schoolteachers and maybe doing [something there], so we would be certain of having a contribution to the quality of education," Pereira said. "That's the idea, to keep it growing, because next year we know that there are going to be some additional students that will be part of the program as well."

Tech Data said that while it has other reseller partners in Haiti, CompHaiti is the first one to approach them with a project of this scale. For its part, Pereira said that having Tech Data on board was very helpful.

"I can tell you that I'm really happy to make this deal with Tech Data because Tech Data's support financially has been tremendous. They’ve been very patient with us while we've been working to make this happen, because that wasn't quite easy and to understand where we were headed with the deal. Financially I know they made significant efforts to help us with this," Pereira said. 

PUBLISHED APRIL 17, 2014