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Venezuela orders 10,000 Surtab Tablets – How Jamaica can duplicate Haiti’s Tablet Manufacturing

Yes, just as the title says, Haiti and Venezuela are in business. During a 24 hour visit to the French speaking Caribbean Island, PetroCaribe President Bernardo Alvarez who is also a former Ambassador to the United States and is currently Secretary General of the regional ALBA alliance, made a purchase of 10,000 US$85 7” Surtab Tablets from Haiti on Tuesday May 27th 2014.

venezuela_haiti-produced_tablets_surftab

This as confirmed by Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who apparently took PetroCaribe President Bernardo Alvarez on a tour of the Surtab Factory at which point he made the decision to place the order. But you, dear, reader, may be still gawking in surprise; Haiti makes 7” Tablets!? In fact, the Surtab Tablet comes in two (2) versions:

  • US$100 (EU€74) 7” Surtab Tablet with Wi-fi
  • US$200 (EU€14) 7” Surtab Tablet with Wi-fi and 3G

Yes, ma cherie! Since December 2013 actually and a good choice of size, as 7” Tablets are all the rage now globally, as predicted in The Two Towers of Tablets, 7” Amazon Kindle Fire and 7.9” Apple iPad are the Global Tablet size of Choice.

Haiti the Tablet Manufacturer – From Earthquake to Earth-shaking Tablet Production, Digicel Style

Since the Earthquake Struck on Tuesday 12th January 2010 at 4:53 pm, Haiti has sunk into a state of Abysmal poverty. But that was the Haiti of 4 years ago as now they produce Tablets thanks incredibly to Digicel.

In fact, there are 2 tablet makes on Haiti:

  • Surtab SA
  • Handxom SA

Both Rival Tablet makes are start-ups that came to the island in November 2013 and eventually began production of Tablets by December 2013 as originally reported by the Associated Press. But it’s the U$85 7” Surtab Tablet that’s the focus of my article here and the Digicel connection is glaringly obvious.

The company got kick-started with the help of a US$200,000 Grant from the Pan-American Development Fund by Surtab’s Founder and CEO Maarten Boute. Surtab SA represents a partnership with a wealthy Danish Husband and wife team and a Wealthy Haitian Family, who are Board Members.

And there’s your Digicel Connection right there, as Surtab CEO Maarten Boute, a Belgian, was previously CEO of Digicel Haiti in 2012. His company is now supplies Digicel with these Tablets which eventually retail for US$100, suggesting they’re sold in other Territories outside of Haiti.

But in time they will get the price down so that they’re 7 Surtab Tablet is affordable even to impoverished Haitians, to quote Surtab’s CEO Maarten Boute: “We want to democratise access and we want almost every single Haitian to be able to afford our product to serve the purpose of their technological needs. We want people to know that Haiti can be an important crossroad for appliances and electronics manufacturing. Haiti has very good working people and they have the passion”.

And in case you’re wondering, it’s not a Haitian version of sweat shop. According to Surtab’s Operations Manager, Diderot Musset, Surtab’s 50 employees are fairly well paid, specifically the 20 employees that work on the Clean Room Assembly lines who earn US$6.81 per day with Bonuses for achieving certain KPI (Key Performance Indexes) that push that amount to US$13 per day.

Assuming the KPI’s are easy to achieve and it’s a standard 8 hour workday, that a cool US$65 (JA$7280) per week, surpassing Jamaica’s minimum Wage of JA$5000 per week. Not Bad too, considering that many of the tech-savvy among that 20 can make money otherwise repairing the Surtab and other Tablets based on their work experience, which anyone can do by the way, once you have the right tools as I’ve pointed out in my article How to Repair a Broken Screen on a Smartphone or Tablet.

Akin to Jamaica, Haiti also has a Tablet Program for High School Students as introduced in my article Jamaica’s Low Net Penetration – Broadband Internet A Universal Right and explained in more detail in my article Jamaica’s National Security Ministry plans CCTV Network and Automated Traffic Ticketing System. The Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe endorses their usage in High Schools, even making a salesman-like pitch about Surtab’s 7″ Tablet quote: “We are proud to have this Tablet that is made in Haiti and it works fine and, as you can see, I am using it”.

Surtab Tablets and Jamaican Manufacturing – We Can do it, but Cheaper Electricity needed first

So what’s the specs on the US$85 7” Surtab Tablets?

Fairly similar to the US$200 Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite sold by Digicel here in Jamaica but cheaper, a fact that leaves me impressed overall:

  1. Processor: 1.2GHz Boxchip A13 Processor
  2. OS: Android 4.0
  3. Screen: 7″ with 800 x 480 pixels Resolution
  4. Weight: 287 g / 0.63 lbs
  5. RAM: 512MB of RAM.
  6. Internal storage: 4 GB
  7. External Storage: 32 GB via MicroSD Card
  8. Front Facing Camera: 0.3 Megapixel
  9. Rear Facing Camera: 2 Megapixel
  10. Internet connectivity: Wi-Fi, 3G

When will the Haitian made 7” Surtab Tablet be coming to Jamaica? Possibly very soon, as we don’t make Tablets here in Jamaica, despite the boasting of President of the Jamaica Manufacturer’s Association of (JMA) Brian Pengelley, quote: “There are lessons in there for Jamaica to learn, in terms of how do you go about encouraging start-ups and getting foreign investment. At the right price, there is certainly a market in Jamaica. Those are the sort of things we should be encouraging”.

surtab7_3G_home

Jamaica has neither the Training in terms of construction or Design Engineers to design a Tablet or low-cost electricity to make such a venture worthwhile. Most of the components used in Haiti are fabricated by Components suppliers in China and are merely being assembled in that country.

A concept similar to what should have happened if Oregon-based Porteon, a maker of All-Electric Vehicles had been able to execute their plans to assemble those vehicles here in Jamaica as opined in Oregon-based Porteon to assemble All-Electric Vehicles in Jamaica – One By One.

Also, Jamaica has traditionally being apathetic to foreigners coming to Jamaica and paying low-end wages, albeit Call Centers seem to have avoided this due to their professional profile and the secretive nature of their work. Perhaps a similar style Work setup can be used to build and design Tablets here in Jamaica, albeit it wouldn’t be a Jamaican Designed Tablet, but Tablets for another manufacturer merely taking advantage of our cheap labour.

Still, cheaper electricity thus would remain the main hurdle that has to be overcome in order to make such a manufacturing venture worthwhile.

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.

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