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Three Lessons We Learned Presenting Ethereum Blockchain Technology in Haiti

And how they’ll help us and other projects to build better dApps.

We arrived in Port-au-Prince in the midst of a political crisis: the Petro Caraibe Challenge. Our event was originally planned to be held on October 17, the day of the Petro Caraibe March, and the death anniversary of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haitian revolutionary. The goal of the march was to demand that the government explain where some 3.8 billion dollars, money from the Venezuelan government intended to help the people of Haiti through development projects, had disappeared to — or in whose hands of the government it had ended up.

We couldn’t have chosen a better moment to talk about blockchain technology.

A demo participant creates her Dether wallet for the first time

We held a two-day blockchain event at Banj in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Rewatch the livestream here!) To the team’s knowledge, it was the first-ever blockchain education event ever held in the region. It was an excellent experience, and we couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome.

While there, we had a chance to teach participants about blockchain tech and to present Dether, but we also spent time exchanging and getting to know the people there. Here are three things we learned, and how they’ll help us make the Dether app better, while also preparing for our tour in Latin America.

1. People know bitcoin, but not blockchain

Like a lot of the world, most Haitians have heard of bitcoin, but aren’t familiar with the underlying blockchain technology that powers it, or other cryptocurrencies. Participants in the Dether event were excited to learn that blockchain tech has other potential besides crypto, and to learn about the ways that other applications can be built on top of the Ethereum blockchain. Many participants were immediately struck with their own ideas for Ethereum potential in Haiti (see lesson 3), and we realized that it’s crucial to continue sharing the potential of blockchain technology itself with people around the globe, and not just cryptocurrency. The experience also reminded us how important it is to make the Dether app, and any other dApp, easy to use for all levels of experience with crypto.

Selfie time! Photo courtesy of Banj. https://www.facebook.com/Banjht/photos/a.547708995681414/548975068888140/?type=3&theater

2. Most people in the region don’t have a smartphone…they have two!

Before being in the country, we believed that there would probably be a lot of people still using older phone models. What we were not expecting, was that most people actually use not one, but two smartphones! This is because mobile carriers in Haiti charge high fees to make calls to a number of a different carrier, so most people find it more affordable to use two phones. Many dApp creators and designers don’t realize how well-connected regions like Haiti are, and may neglect them while thinking of new dApps and solutions. It’s dangerous to assume anything about a region you’re unfamiliar with while developing, and crucial to talk with people on the ground there, or when possible, to visit for yourself.

While smartphone usage is high, the cost of data and internet is as well — which means we need to continue thinking of creative solutions in similar regions that can be used on smartphones, but that are light on internet usage.

Video chatting with our friends from AirSwap!

3. Haitians are hungry to use blockchain technology for good

The Petro Caraibe situation is truly just the tip of the iceberg illustrating Haiti’s need for technology that helps to curb corruption. A huge swath of the populations relies on money sent from abroad to survive, which means that remittance solutions, which charge fees, plus an additional tax from the government, continue to rule. Everyone we spoke to is eager to find a better solution, and open to using cryptocurrency.

Many attendees also cited the potential for blockchain technology to be used in issuing land titles, which is known to hinder reconstruction.

There‘s also great interest in using cryptocurrency as a better means of sending and accepting donations, which often never even arrive to those who need them.

First t-shirt winner! Photo courtesy of Banj. https://www.facebook.com/Banjht/photos/a.547708995681414/548975068888140/?type=3&theater

Overall, we were impressed by people’s desire to use technology for good, and to solve real-world problems. We hope that attendees will be inspired to work on their own blockchain solutions throughout Haiti, and to potentially adopt cryptocurrency as both a means of better tracking government and corporate spending, but also as a new way to buy goods, and revamp local businesses (by getting themselves on the Dether map!)

Despite all of this, there’s still a liquidity issue in Haiti. People are ready to use dApps and Ethereum technology, but because no one is selling crypto, they don’t have access to it. If you’re traveling in a region where crypto liquidity isn’t high (parts of Africa, South America, and Latin America), then consider helping to create crypto corridors by using the Dether app to sell crypto while you’re there.

Together, we can help the community break barriers to cryptocurrency mass adoption.

The Dether team

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