Impoverished Haiti manufacturing its own Android tablet

Mar 16 2014, 23:40 IST
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Haitian-founded company has begun manufacturing the low-cost tablet called Sūrtab. AP Haitian-founded company has begun manufacturing the low-cost tablet called Sūrtab. AP
SummaryHaitian-founded company has begun manufacturing the low-cost tablet called Sūrtab.

high-skilled job that the country needs to work its way out of poverty."

Brice, who works an eight-hour shift, would not disclose her salary. Sūrtab employees receive a bonus for each tablet that successfully passes the quality control and the company says it pays two to three times the Haitian minimum wage of $5 a day.

INDIVIDUALLY ASSEMBLED

With only a limited selection of expensive imported tablets available in Haiti, Sūrtab is the cheapest device on the market.

"It's easy to use and it takes really good quality photos, like any other tablet," said one happy customer, Lisbeth Plantin. "And it's great to see 'Made in Haiti' on the back," she added.

At the factory there is no production line, instead workers assemble each device from start to finish.

"We could have done like in Asia, one task per employee, which is faster, but we wanted to have a better quality product," said Diderot Musset, Sūrtab's production manager.

Depending on the model, it takes an employee between 35 minutes and an hour to make a tablet. The company produces between 4,000 to 5,000 tablets a month, but plans to double that in April.

"We want the parts of the market which are not taken by the big players, especially in developing countries. These people would like to have a tablet but cannot afford an iPad," he said, referring to the Apple Inc device that costs at least $300 in U.S. stores and is barely available in Haiti.

All the factory floor employees are women.

"It was not a choice we made but it happens that women have better results. I think women may be more open to learn something completely different from what they were doing before," Musset said with a smile.

The company is running into inevitable skepticism about the quality of a Haitian-made tablet. "Some people only believe in it when they come here and see the girls working," he said.

The company has a retail distribution deal in Haiti with Digicel, a global telecom company that dominates the local cellphone market, as well as sales to Haitian government ministries and local non-governmental organizations.

A university in Kenya also ordered 650 Sūrtab devices.

Sūrtab is hoping to diversify its product line beyond tablets, said Patrick Sagna, director of business development.

"We want to establish a presence in the software sector. We are in contact with people from San Francisco who are ready to work with Haitian developers," he said.

Sūrtab's investors are looking to

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