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Haiti Rewired | Networking Reconstruction

March 17, 2010

Following the January earthquake in Haiti, an online collaborative community focused on tech and infrastructure solutions for Haiti called Haiti Rewired was launched by Wired.com. Created on Ning, the network already has over 800 members from diverse fields; writers, editors, technologists, researchers, geographers, architects, infrastructure specialists, aid groups and others dedicated to rebooting Haiti’s future. Read on for their mission statement and one of the promising projects already underway to adapt a Peruvian construction manual for Haiti.

These are the five simple principles that according to Haiti Rewired, could transform not only Haiti, but the world’s response to crisis:

1. Collaboration. The events unfolding in Haiti bring together an unusual coalition: non-governmental organizations, the military, international organizations, state actors. To avoid waste, duplication of effort and confusion, they will have to break down cultural and institutional barriers, and start sharing everything: imagery, sensor data, on-the-ground intel. Old models of classification and need-to-know must be dumped.

2. Transparency. Haitians are rightly disillusioned with aid: promises unfulfilled by donors, corruption and graft by officials, a general lack of accountability when it comes to aid. While there may always be inefficiency, waste and corruption must be tackled. It might not sound like the most important element of the recovery, but we need data-based metrics. Funding will be tracked; aid will be measured; disclosure shall be the rule.

3. Innovation. Solutions for Haiti’s problems will have to blend time-tested ideas with new ways of doing things that have been enabled by technology. Transparency and collaboration have become radically easier with new communication and networking technologies. On the other hand, these same tools can fail us during major disasters. How can we incorporate and build new technological systems for Haiti that are both efficient and resilient?

4. Design. Rebuilding Haiti will be a test in the politics of architecture. How can planners, urbanists, architects, construction companies and local authorities come together to design a better Port-au-Prince on the rubble of the earthquake?

5. DIY. The old model of The Development Set — highly paid expat consultants who jet around from crisis to crisis — needs to be jettisoned. This could be rebuilding on the cheap and that could be a good thing. Empowering local communities, avoiding Beltway banditry and giving communities control of their own affairs might generate real results. Can smarter, locally rooted ideas provide immediate shelter for thousands in need and lay the foundation for the city’s seismic, social and economic future?

The Construction Booklet Project: A DIY construction manual for Haitians

As we already know, chronic poverty, underdeveloped housing structure, poor construction, lax building codes, and poorly inspected and enforced construction quality made Haiti a disaster waiting to happen. The reality that less than 10% -15% of building construction will have a design professional involved is the reason behind Haiti Rewired’s 5th principle: DIY. Work is underway by the group Construction Booklet to adapt an existing disaster-prevention construction manual used in Peru to the language, culture and specific conditions of Haiti. Major differences between Peru and Haiti include the materials used for construction; whereas Peru used clay bricks, Haiti will have work with concrete blocks.

Excerpt from the DIY earthquake-resistant construction booklet created for Peru

More images:

“They are carpenters, building cities with sticks and bent nails. They are earthmovers and deconstruction contractors, using tools no more complicated than the lever. They are entrepreneurs, planners and organizers, working together when there is no one else to help.” NYTimes

If families themselves are going to rebuild their own homes, distributing a user-friendly, culturally appropriate, and most importantly, site-specific manual seems like a crucial step in the right direction, and one that could make a long-lasting impact on a large-scale.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this project. In the meantime, stay tuned to the Haiti Rewired network and contribute if you can.

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You can download the entire Spanish or English version of the original manual pictured above, and if you’d like to help translate the document, contact John Rigdon and Mark Behnke for assignments.

Thx to Sergio Palleroni for the heads up!

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