I am writing this article with a heavy and sad heart.
There is a war on women and children, in particular in Haiti.
Tourists, missionaries, aid workers, questionable adventure-seekers, and those looking to make a few dollars are eyeing the country as an open market. Consider the following headlines that social media has been exposing in the last few weeks, and even this past year:
All these tragic stories involved foreigners.
Unscrupulous foreigners may think that because Haiti has a weak government, it therefore cannot fend for itself. It is time that Haitian citizens both in Haiti and abroad empower the people to defend themselves with the technology tools they already have.
There are six million citizens in Haiti with access to cell phones, and most of these cell phones have cameras.
My question is, why are Haitians not using this technology to protect themselves against these predators?
Using technology as a tool to empower citizens against crime
Haiti has enough problems as a country without some foreigners thinking it is also open season on women and children. Finding technological solutions to mitigate these crimes should not be that difficult. After you read this post, you’ll have several ideas of what you can do to help solve this problem.
We need to start using technology as a tool to rein in crimes the same way that countries like the U.S. are doing. Technology is already being used at every level of solving crimes in the United States, using something as simple as tablets.
“Many police departments are using tablet computers to record witness statements, file reports, photograph evidence, view area maps, and even sketch crime scenes, according to author Allen B. Ury.
Below are three apps that Haitian developers can create today to send a message to the world that Haiti is not open to those who would abuse women and children, or any other kind of predatory business. It is a small country, and therefore sending this message is quite manageable.
Put tourist and missionary predators on notice
A predator community alert app – this app should be built around Haiti’s high-traffic motels and hotels.
For example, in the case of Kaliko Beach, the community app would be a means to report any suspicious activities that people in the community are observing and to warn families.
It would be similar to the Foursquare app that is used in the U.S. to let people know who is in their immediate location.
Most people in Haiti have a cell phone with camera. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how the world knew about the electoral fraud taken place during Haiti’s election.
Those reports were documented with cell phones. It would be great to work with the government, but you don’t necessarily need the government to build an app to monitor evil in your community.
In addition, each alert app should have a connected Facebook page, which will help to build a community that spans the particular commune or district to the Haitian diaspora on social media.
If electricity is an obstacle to using Facebook, then send the message via WhatsApp so Haitians overseas can help spread the word. Haitians are already using social media to help save lives. For instance, I often see requests on Twitter and Facebook asking for blood donations for accident victims in Haiti.
We can certainly build upon social media technology to let predators know that Haiti is not open for their schemes. Accountability may not stop all of them, but if the community has the power to bring them to light, then Haitian women and children have a better chance to feel safe in their own country.
An amber alert app – I have to give credit where credit is due. I did not think of this idea, but my fellow Haitian, Patricia Beauvais Germain, recommended this app on Twitter.
Her idea was, “Since everyone has a cell phone in Haiti, if a child goes missing, authorities could send alerts to everyone’s cell phones via Digicel and Natcom to help families find their children.” For the amber alert, the government will need to be involved to implement this app.
A farmers’ land protection app – Although this app does not have any human abuse or trafficking nature to it, in my mind, human displacement is a form of crime. This app can connect farmers with Haitian attorneys and land survey consultants throughout the diaspora. This is an effort to get them quick answers when they confront land predators.
I know some of you are probably thinking that the farmers don’t have time, but their children or family members have access to cell phones. I am not sure how all the details would play out, but it would open the doors to connect the farmers with those who can help them resist the predators pushing them to sell their land for $100 U.S. dollars.
Just as some forces are very diligent in maintaining Haiti the way it is, we must insist equally that these human violations are not acceptable. Haitians can use technology as a means to stop these activities.
It would also send a message to the Haitian citizens who are not on the side of the law, letting them know that they will not get away with abusing their own. I wanted to take the first step, so I’ve created a Facebook page that we can start sharing with our families in Haiti. I’ve also listed several links below that you might find useful.
The Internet is probably the greatest human rights activism tool for the poor and vulnerable because of its ability to connect instantly. Let’s use technology to stop these tourist predators!
Your turn: Are you an app builder? What kind of app can you create today to thwart Haiti’s foreign predators against children and women?
About the author: Daniella Bien-Aime is the founder of the Bien-Aime Post, a digital media platform that focuses on business, leadership, education, and social media within the context of Haiti and its diaspora. Follow her on Twitter @dbienaime.