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17018: Durban on Senou's National Link Idea (fwd)

From: Lance Durban <lpdurban@yahoo.com>

Educator Joseph Alfred of Smyrna, GA wants to create a National
Link of Overseas Haitians (Corbett post #16974). This could be a
useful activity, and something that could properly fall under
the responsibility of a Haitian Embassy (probably in Washington)
or perhaps the Minister/ombudsman(?) for the 10th Department. It
would initially work through the internet, whereby the
"activator" would transmit the message to each local Haitian
Consulate, who would in turn transmit to each geographic Zone
Captain, who would get the message out to his zone via e-mail or
a traditional phone tree.  Forming and maintaining the National
Database would be a major and ongoing task.

Every day Port-au-Prince collects countless immigration forms
both from incoming and departing visitors.  What happens to
these forms?  Training immigration agents to encourage
legibility and completeness of the foreign names and addresses
would improve accuracy.  Then, you need someone to key in all of
the data in a preliminary, unconfirmed database.

A follow-up mailing with a "Thank you for coming" letter, an
invitation to return, discount coupons from Haitian merchants,
and an automatic Tourist Lottery entry for any recipient
answering a few simple questions and returning a business reply
postcard would complete a little package sent out to each
visitor.  (One of the questions would be "How often do you visit
Haiti?", so that the "package" which could cost close to $2 each
to assemble and mail would not be sent more than once a year to
those who visit Haiti frequently).   The little questionnaire,
if properly processed, would tell Haitian authorities a lot
about what they are doing right AND wrong.  Ultimately it could
make visiting Haiti a much better experience for every visitor.

Returned cards confirm the address, and move the "contact name"
from the preliminary, unconfirmed database to a National
Database.  Both lists need constant updating to remain current.
Just like annual editions of a telephone book, if changes are
not recorded, before very long you have a complete mess.  That's
where the Zone Captains would be useful.  They would be
responsible for the accuracy of database contact information in
their zones.

Use of the National Database would be the next contentious
issue.  Who has access to the list, and under what set of rules
can information be sent out?  Obviously abuse of the system will
very quickly have respondees opting out by demanding removal of
their names from the database, and/or refusal to provide
accurate address information in the first place.  Privacy laws
are pretty non-existant in Haiti, but before setting this
National Link up serious thought needs to be given to all of the
consequences and ramifications.  My own feeling is that it would
be a very useful undertaking, but there are negatives as well as
positives, and I don't pretend to have considered the myriad of
issues which need to be addressed.

Lance Durban