Shigeru Miyagawa, chair of the MIT OpenCourseWare faculty advisory committee and professor of linguistics, describes how OCW has aided reconstruction in Haiti.
“Just one of the stories of OCW use that has moved me recently is that of Jean-Ronel Noel and Alex Georges, entrepreneurs working to bring renewable energy to communities throughout Haiti. Through their company, Enersa (enersahaiti.com) they planned to create solar panels to serve the needs of their country, but in their research and development process, they required guidance in electrical engineering. Noel found the materials he needed on MIT OpenCourseWare. “I was able to use the OpenCourseWare to learn the principles of integrated circuits. I found out that I could use an existing integrated circuit to make things more efficient, and I wanted an explanation about how it worked. I was able to learn this through the MIT OpenCourseWare.”
Enersa’s work has been supported by the non-profit Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG). AIDG Executive Director Peter Haas describes how Noel and Georges leveraged OCW to build a successful business. “I was immediately impressed by [Noel], an engineer who taught himself the electrical engineering he was missing by using the free online engineering resources of MIT OpenCourseWare,” said Haas. “Also, after seeing the dramatic bootstrapping JR and Alex had done in starting their business, it was clear this team was different.” [www.aidg.org/incubation/enersa.htm]
Jean-Ronel Noel, a mechanical engineer by training, describes why OCW was his resource of choice: “It was much better than any other information I found on the Internet, since the other sites were written by electronics experts who assumed that it would be read by other experts. I didn’t want to just copy the circuit without understanding it. MIT OpenCourseWare was different because it explained things step by step. Using the OpenCourseWare saved us a lot of time and money.”
Through Enersa, OCW touches lives well beyond Noel’s and Georges’. Enersa employs 18 full-time solar technicians drawn from the communities they serve, and Enersa’s products affect the daily lives of thousands of Haitians. Enersa produces residential and commercial solar systems and solar chargers for smaller items such as cell phones and lamps, but their signature product is a solar street lamp. In just two and a half years, they have installed more than 500 of these in 58 cities and remote villages in Haiti. Enersa’s activities were briefly interrupted by the January 12, 2010 earthquake, but with an emergency loan from AIDG, they are back to full operation.”