Haiti builds its own Android tablet

The Western Hemisphere’s least developed country has made a surprising entry into the high-tech world with its own Android tablet.

Haiti, which is better known for its rum and annoying US right wing Christians with its hybrid African-Catholic religion, has begun manufacturing the low-cost tablet called Sûrtab, a made-up name using the French adjective “sûr,” meaning “sure,” to suggest reliability.

The project started with a $200,000 grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and uses imported Asian components. There are three models all with 7-inch screens that run on Android. The base model is a simple wi-fi tablet with 512 megabytes of RAM for about $100, to a 3G model with 2-gigabytes of memory for $285.

This is the second time that Haiti has had an assembly industry. In the 1970s and 1980s the country had a thriving assembly industry, including computer boards. This was killed by a US economic embargo in the 1990s which followed a military coup.

Sûrtab said that the company  pays two to three times the Haitian minimum wage of $5 a day. There is no production line; instead, workers assemble each device from start to finish. Apparently this improves quality because it means that they are not zombies. 

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.