Friday, January 15, 2010

Digicel Commits US $5m to Haiti

Irish telecom billionaire Denis O'Brien has donated $5 million dollars to help Haiti recover from the devastating 7.0 earthquake that hit the country on January 12th.

O’Brien has invested hundreds of millions into the impoverished island nation. His cell phone company, Digicel Group, is one of Haiti's biggest companies and the nation's largest direct investor.

Giving cell phone service to clients in poor and violent nations has helped O'Brien build a $2.2 billion fortune. He operates in other volatile countries including Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

O'Brien summed up his strategy in a Forbes 2008 cover story: "Get big fast. [Damn] the cost. Be brave. Go over the cliff. [The competition] doesn't have the balls."

O'Brien provides communication, information--and ultimately freedom--to people traditionally under the yoke of state oppression, extreme isolation, and crushing poverty. His Haitian clients love him for it:
During a 2008 riot in Port-au-Prince, the mob not only spared Digicel stores from burning and looting, but even gathered in front of a few of them and cheered. When he read an email about what happened, O'Brien told a Forbes reporter, "They're calling us the company of the people."

Haiti was a big gamble for O'Brien. The county lacked the electrical grid to supply cell towers with power. So he rigged them to run on barrels of diesel -- sometimes delivered by donkey. O'Brien started service in Haiti in 2006. Before the earthquake he had more than 2 million subscribers.

Yesterday a Digicel spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal the company's system was damaged in the earthquake, but still working. It also reported that 2 of its 900 employees on Haiti had died.

Jacques Edouard Alexis, former Prime Minister of Haiti, and Denis O Brien, Chairman of Digicel and the Foundation

Source: Forbes

No comments:

Post a Comment