vendredi 8 mai 2015

Syracuse University graduate student plans to return to Haiti to help fix emergency communication system

Jackin Alix Bien-Aime was on the eighth floor of the tallest building in Haiti when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck in January 2010.
The earthquake hit at 4:53 p.m., and Bien-Aime spent about the next three hours assisting those who needed help.
“I think that at least we lost one person because that person after the earthquake couldn’t send information to other people to say exactly where they are,” said Bien-Aime, who also lost his godmother and many of his friends in the natural disaster. More than 230,000 people died as a result of the earthquake.
He worked for a company in the country’s capital, while his mother was in Cap-Haitien, located a few hours away. Bien-Aime wasn’t able to contact his mother until two days after the earthquake, not because he left his cell phone at home, but because communication in Haiti at the time wasn’t up to par.
His experience with the earthquake inspired him to apply to the Syracuse University–Université d’État d’Häïti Student Exchange Program, which began in 2011 as a way for the university to help Haiti after the earthquake as a result of efforts by the Syracuse University Haiti Support Committee.
For Bien-Aime, the program has proven opportune. As a student in the School of Information Studies, Bien-Aime is working toward a master’s degree in telecommunications and network management, as well as a certificate of advanced studies in information security management.
According to the SU website, the committee that established the exchange proposed an “educational exchange program” with the State University of Haiti, to support Haitian students in continuing graduate studies.
Now a second year-graduate student in the iSchool, Bien-Aime plans to return to Haiti after graduation and use what he learned to help his home country.
“After the earthquake, the communication world was just bad, and I said, ‘Maybe we can find solutions in technology,’” Bien-Aime said, “because if you can’t communicate with someone, you can’t share the important information.”
Paula Johnson, a professor in the College of Law, began the program with Dr. Linda Carty, a professor of sociology and African American studies said she and the committee believed that it was important for SU as an educational institution to go beyond the immediate relief effort.
“We called for bringing students from Haiti to come to SU in order to get advanced degrees in areas that were deemed to be particularly important to the longer term rebuilding of Haiti,” Johnson said.
Johnson said this year’s class might be the last group that SU will be bringing in from Haiti because the university hasn’t committed to financially supporting the program in the future. But she believes the program is worthy of external funding.
Bien-Aime wants take what he learned in the program and aid in improving the country’s emergency communications. After he returns home post-graduation, he hopes to get government help when implementing his capstone.
His final project involves improving wireless communication in the event that providers like T-Mobile or Verizon aren’t working.
“This is just one of the ways that I can help Haiti if something like that happens again,” Bien-Aime said. “I am a technology guy. Because we had a communications issue and a technology issue, I’m just trying to find a technological solution that we can use to face those types of situations.”
Bien-Aime, along with five other students, is part of the second group that SU brought in from Haiti in 2013. Like the others who were selected for the program, Bien-Aime stood out in his field, Johnson added.
“Jackin Alix has a particular awareness, pre-earthquake and post-earthquake, of what his country needs to increase the telecommunications within the country and across countries…” Johnson said. “He is precisely the type of person that we saw benefiting from this program and taking what he learned back to Haiti and building on it there.”

Contact Clare: clramire@syr.edu

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