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03/12/08 - Cuba-L Analysis (Albuquerque) - Cuba and Information Technology 
[Final]

By Nelson P Valdes

INFORMATICS INDUSTRY [117]

The cost of importing ICT resources as well as U.S. constraints on exporting 
software to the island has compelled Cuba to rely on its own electronics 
manufacturing and software industry. Since 1969 the country has developed 
teaching and industrial concerns involved in the research and development of 
semiconductors, integrated circuits sensors, radios, television and 
computers designed by Cuban technicians. Computers are often assembled with 
foreign parts since the country does not have the capacity to meet its won 
demand. Cuba has developed its greatest capacity in the area of medical 
equipment.

The Cubans know that in the short run they cannot meet their own hardware 
needs. However, the situation is somewhat different in software development. 
The software industry is an area with extraordinary potential.[118]Software 
has been developed for every aspect of the Cuban economy, including 
telecommunications. All the universities, government ministries, 40 research 
centers and over 100 enterprises, as well as the Joven Clubs have developed 
and used their own software applications. The Christian Science Monitor 
reports "There are 30 software development companies [2000] where none 
existed three years ago. Total software exports for 2000 may seem paltry at 
$14 million, but they have grown 650 percent since 1999."[119]

In order to address marketing shortcomings and weaknesses, alliances have 
been established with foreign corporations. A Canadian newspaper recently 
reported that, "Cuba seeks to establish strategic alliances with Canadian 
companies in various high-tech sectors." To that effect agreements have been 
signed, among others, with Consortium Silicon Island whose mission is to 
market Cuban software products and services.[120] Some of those software 
products are advertised in the Internet.[121]

Ironically, U.S. policy indirectly has helped the development of the 
software industry in Cuba. By making it impossible for the Cubans to legally 
obtain U.S. produced software, the island instead has had to rely on its own 
intellectual capacity. "The Cubans' extreme resourcefulness, visible in 
their ability to keep the country's high percentage of classic 1950s cars 
running, is also evident in their programmers. They acquire the latest 
American programming tools, subject to embargo, from third countries - and 
since they don't benefit from technical support, they reverse-engineer as 
much as they can."[122]

Moreover, Cuban authorities have broken any isolation that the U.S. 
government has tried to impose by nurturing the growth and development of a 
huge army of web masters and web designers, who have produced over 16,000 
web pages in a very short period of time.[123]

Cuba has numerous Web portals. Contrary to what it is often asserted or 
assumed, the majority of the Web pages deal with commercial, economic, and 
cultural topics, and pages deovted stictly to political themes are few. 
There are four national dailies on line. Granma International is available 
in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and German.

National Daily Newspapers

Granma. Official Paper of the Communist Party 
http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/
Digital Granma International 
http://www.granma.cu/
Digital Juventud Rebelde 
http://www.jrebelde.cubaweb.cu/
Trabajadores 
http://www.trabajadores.cubaweb.cu/

The island's 14 provincial newspapers are also available in Spanish.

Pinar del Río: El GuerrilleroCienfuegos: 5 de septiembreGranma: La Demajagua
Habana: Tribuna de la Habana, El HabaneroSancti Spíritus: EscambrayHolguín: 
Ahora
Isla de la Juventud: VictoriaCiego de Avila: InvasorSantiago de Cuba: Sierra 
Maestra
Matanzas: GirónCamagüey: AdelanteGuantánamo: Venceremos
Villa Clara: VanguardiaLas Tunas: 26 Digital


Four Cuban news agencies already have a presence in Internet: Prensa Latina, 
Agencia de Información Nacional, Centro de Información para la Prensa and 
Notinet. There are 12 radio stations on line, six located in Havana. They 
are: Radio Reloj, Radio Habana Cuba, Radio Rebelde, Radio Metropolitana, 
Radio Ciudad Habana, Radio Victoria, Radio Sancti Spíritus. Radio CMHW Santa 
Clara, Radio Progreso, Radio Ciudad del Mar, Radio Periódico del Aire, and 
Radio Enciclopedia. Television stations are also represented: Cubavisión in 
Havana and Telecristal in Holguín. Among the weekly newsmagazines online can 
be found Bohemia, Prisma, and Orbe.

There are numerous periodicals on line as well. Economists have available: 
Opciones, a finance and economy weekly produced by the staff of the daily 
newspaper Juventud Rebelde, and El Economista, produced by the National 
Association of Economists and Accountants. Small children have their own 
publication, Zunzún; issues related to women are addressed in Mujeres. 
Adolescents write in Somos Jóvenes. The organization of the Young Pioneers 
publishes Pionero, aimed at elementary students.

There are 43 sites covering science and technology. Tourism has 37 sites. 
The cultural sphere offers 32 sites. There are 18 sites dealing with 
Internet and Computing. 27 address the needs of business and finance. 17 
sites are education related. Thirteen different sites provide numerous 
resources en medicine and health and another 12 are dedicated to government 
or politics. Six sites are dedicated to Cuban sports. Due to the high 
quality of Cuban education, the Ministry of Higher education has begun to 
offer courses on-line aimed at Spanish speakers throughout Latin America. 
Courses are now offered on the use of the Internet, on nuclear physics, on 
sociological theory, designing web pages, artificial intelligence and 
management.[124]

Cuba has joined the world of e-commerce with a number of portals. 
Cuban-Americans can send money remittances to the island via QuickCash using 
any credit card, or may order a TV set or similar appliance to be delivered 
to a friend or relative. Entrepreneurs have their own portal. Cuban 
empresarios may use La Nueva Empresa to improve their management or business 
skills. One may purchase almost any Cuban product on-line by visiting Cuban 
Bazaar. Those desiring to send parcels may visit Cuba Pack International. 
Those in need of corporate intelligence before getting involved with a 
foreign investor may visit a Cuban site addressing such needs.

An almost complete listing of sites is found at the end of this paper.

The best hyperlink to all the Cuban sites on-line is Cuba en Internet. 
CubaNic provides information regarding on line hosts and those who have 
requested the appropriate licenses for establishing such services.

One area where Cuba has not developed many resources has been with listservs 
and discussion groups. Usually the ones that exist address very specific 
technical issues (the use of Linux) or disciplines (Medicine, Nuclear 
Energy). There is a listserv that distributes news on medical developments, 
but nothing exists at present to handle information about events within Cuba 
nor to distribute foreign reporting on Cuba.[125]

CONCLUSION

First, the ICT revolution, including Internet and email, should be 
understood within the socioeconomic framework of respective countries and 
regions of the world. Material resources and finances, international context 
and cultural traditions are important factors to consider. We should avoid 
assuming that the pattern of access found in the United States or in other 
post-industrial societies is reproducible in the developing world.

Second, the "digital divide" is found across countries and within countries; 
even the most developed countries have a serious stratification of access. 
Not even the highly industrialized countries assume that the problem of 
access will be found by personal or individual accounts. Cuba offers an 
alternative model of social access and inclusion. Cuba's experience with the 
Joven Club network and other Cuban models and the degree to which they take 
grassroots needs for access into account ought to be known and studied.
Third, there are numerous routes to inclusion into Internet and email 
connectivity. Reliance on public institutions (such as schools, libraries, 
computer clubs, hospitals, post offices and computer cafés) seems to take 
precedence over individual and homebound solutions. The socialization of ICT 
costs might be the only way that access becomes affordable to those with 
limited personal resources.

Fourth, throughout the world, those who have access use email much more than 
the Internet. This is so in Cuba as well. It is simpler to receive 
information than to search for information due to limitations of time, 
financial resources and know-how. It is logical that email will expand in 
Cuba much faster than the use of the Internet. The social basis for 
connectivity implies that many people will have access to limited resources 
for short periods of time. Hence, email will be the best instrument to 
exchange information back and forth

Fifth, if one wants to provide an Internet environment for Cubans, then the 
closest to that environment will be the use of Intranets, that is, 
Internet-like networks, even mirrors, but operating within Cuba. There are 
financial and logical reasons for Intranets related to cost and speed of 
access.

Sixth, the ICT revolution is having a growing impact on Cuban society, 
culture, education, medicine and economy. The consequences of the 
establishment and development of an information society in Cuba remain to be 
studied.

Seventh, the ICT revolution in Cuba has led to the incorporation of many 
professional people into the use of such resources. However, most of these 
people do not have a clear picture of the development of electronic 
communications technology in the island since most information is limited to 
public speeches, position papers and Cuban or foreign media reports. There 
is a necessity to have an objective and up-to-date overview of what is 
happening.

Eighth, since Cuba does not have high speed Internet connectivity with the 
outside world and related services, it is necessary to help create an 
awareness of the problem and to mobilize support to find a practical 
solution. In the United States, the private sector interest is there. What 
is missing is the political will on the part of the U.S. government to lift 
barriers to the provision of needed services and technologies.

Ninth, the government of the United States has followed the same "two track" 
policy on matters related to ICT and Cuba as it has applied to every other 
aspect of relations with Cuba. It has a "tough" line (Track I) that does not 
allow the flow to Cuba of any resource that will enhance ITC efficiency and 
capabilities, while a "soft" line (Track II) calls for the provision of 
financial resources and equipment to political opponents of the Cuban 
regime. Despite ideologically-based arguments which claim the "democratizing 
effects" of Internet connectivity, such U.S. policies are not geared to 
increase access to electronic communication for the average Cuban. Rather, 
the intent is to use the Internet and email specifically to enhance the 
capacity and efforts of those opposed to the Cuban government.

Tenth, while it is naïve to assume that a given technology can produce 
similar political conditions and/or regimes found elsewhere in the 
industrialized world, attempts by the U.S. government to use Internet access 
in Cuba as a means to foster anti-government movements within Cuban society 
can actually help to limit the spread of ICT within Cuba.

Eleventh, ICT is becoming a fundamental aspect of Cuban strategies for 
socioeconomic development. E-commerce and software development will become 
very important products in a society with such a highly trained and educated 
population.





Footnotes:

[117] A complete overview of the industry, while certainly within our 
capacity, is a more substantive and detailed undertaking than space allows. 
Here we attempt to provide an overview first of all for contextual purposes.
[118] The following are the key institutions involved in R&D in ICT: 
Electronics Group for Tourism (GET); Computer Enterprise (EC); the Central 
Institute for Digital Research (ICID), for the preparation of medical 
diagnostic systems; the Cybernetics, Mathematics and Physics Institute 
(ICIMAF) and the Center for Automated Systems Design (CEDISAC), GENESIS 
MULTIMEDIA, the company for the Production and Commercialization of Software 
(SOFTEL), the Company for the Production and Development of Quality Software 
(SOFTCAL), INFOMASTER, the Company for the Production of Sugar Data 
(DATAZUCAR), the Robotics and Software Center (EICISOFT), the Institute for 
Research into Sugar Cane Derivatives (ICIDCA), Computers and Automation in 
Construction (ICON), the Center for Computerization and Applied Systems to 
Culture (CEISIC), the Center for Systems Design and the Automatic Processing 
of Data (CEDIPAP), the Company for Automated Systems in the Food Industry 
(ALIMATIC), National Centers for Excellence and Training in Computers 
(CENSAI), GEOCUBA Research and Assessment, the Engineering and Development 
Company for Industrial Automation (CEDAI) and the Center for the Study of 
Software for Education (CESoftE).
[119] Timothy Ashby and Elizabeth Bourget, " Dotcommies take over Cuba," 
Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 2000.
[120] "Cuban IT delegation to visit Canada," Globe and Mail, May 17, 2001.
[121] See: http://www.cubasoft.net/english/sail.htm. For a sample of the 
staff in one of the many organizations producing software go to: 
http://www.softel.cu/outline/staff.htm
[122] Angel Gónzalez, "Silicon Island: A Cuban Fantasy?," Wired, June 8, 
2001, p. 2
[123] "Páginas cubanas en Internet registran casi 50 millones de accesos," 
Prensa Latina (Havana), February 2, 2001.
[124] Go to: http://www.cursosenlinea.cu
[125] Reinaldo Rodriguez, "Las listas de discusión electrónicas en 
bibliotecología y ciencias de la información," ACIMED (Havana), Vol. 7, No. 
1,1999, pp. 15-29 http://bvs.sld.cu/revistas/aci/vol7_1_99/aci03199.htm

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http://www.worldbank.org/data/wdi2000/pdfs/tab5_11.pdf


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