In the streets of Port-au-Prince, in the shops, everywhere, it's easy to spot the many phone credit sellers, with their red or blue vest according to the company. "Pap PADAP"! "La Pou La"! This is what passers-by or drivers call them. Mobile telephones are everywhere in Haiti and telecommunication companies are among the largest providers of income to the government: 95% of the population has access to the mobile network, more than half of the population has a mobile phone and a little over a million Haitians have a smartphone.
A new "Diagnosis of information and communication technologies in Haiti," published by the World Bank, shows however, that the population doesn’t draw real benefit from this connectivity: subscriptions prices are high, up to 34 % of gross income per capita for a broadband subscription, competition is low and there are few apps which support daily financial transactions.
Modernizing regulation for a growing market
According to Jean Marie Altema, general manager of the telecommunications industry regulator, the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL), "strengthening the legal framework" is one of the biggest challenges of the Technologies of Information and Communication (ICTs) as well as "the development of infrastructure and access to services." "The report is an excellent work that should guide the Conatel to develop an action plan that can address these issues," he says.
Modernizing legislation, particularly in terms of bandwidth and infrastructure, would open up the way for a third mobile operator, currently there are only two. Such a move would potentially have a significant impact on costs and quality of service for consumers.
Regarding cybercrime, Haiti is one of the few countries in the Caribbean without any legal framework and where cyber-attacks have increased significantly in recent years: the attacks particularly target government email accounts, social networks along with the identities and information of customers performing mobile transactions and electronic payments.
Mobile payment, it works and we can do much better
Mobile payments and retail banking in Haiti took off after the 2010 earthquake, kickstarted by international players to transfer funds for the reconstruction efforts. Yet today, only 100 to 200 000 of over a million customers registered with four service providers regularly transfer money.
This payment method would facilitate financial access, especially in rural areas where banks are scarce. Not going to the bank or not carrying cash would increase user security and transaction speed. Encouraging users to use these services is possible by increasing: the available number of agents across the country, the payment ceilings, too low for the transfer of most salaries, and the number of companies and businesses accepting such payments.