Specialists in the IT and telecommunications sectors will discuss an IT policy in Havana that is intended to be “inclusive, modern, and facilitate sustainable processes over time,” said Ailyn Febles Estrada, Vice Chancellor of the University of Information Science, to Cubadebate.
According to Febles, “all opinions from professionals linked to the sector are important” in defining and executing the new policy.
Nevertheless, this vision excludes—at least initially—those who are not considered “industry experts,” in a context where ICT use and access is of interest to all of society, and is even one of the talking points in the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States. Febles did not allude to Internet access either, which should be a central topic in any discussion on information and communication policies.
The National Workshop on Informatization and Cybersecurity will bring together over 11,000 computer experts, mostly connected via video conference in 21 sub-sites located across all of the country's provinces. On February 19 and 20, the event will be held in the Center for Integrated Technology Research at the José Antonio Echeverría Superior Polytechnic Institute, and around 260 experts will participate, analyzing topics such as human and scientific resources, e-government, computer security, the economy and legislation, Cubadebate explains.
Additionally, they will analyze “the bases of the policy for developing secure informatization in the country, its national priorities, as well as the details on beginning the process of creating a new social organization that will bring together ICT-related professionals.”
The “Governing Program of Informatization in Cuban Society,” adopted in 2005 and currently in force, establishes:
La Informatización de la sociedad es el proceso de utilización ordenada y masiva de las Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones en la vida cotidiana, para satisfacer las necesidades de todas las esferas de la sociedad, en su esfuerzo por lograr cada vez más eficacia y eficiencia en todos los procesos y por consiguiente mayor generación de riqueza y aumento en la calidad de vida de los ciudadanos.
The informatization of society is the process of orderly and mass use of Information and Communications Technology in daily life to meet the needs of all areas of society, each time in an effort to achieve more effectiveness and efficiency and therefore greater wealth and an increase in the quality of life for citizens.
In a research study conducted for CLACSO [pdf] (the Latin American Council of Social Sciences), Cuban professor and journalist Milena Recio considers that “the unilateralism of the  policy, and the low levels of social participation in its design, determine that this notion [of orderly use] points more to regulated, scheduled, assigned use, which somewhat contradicts the very spirit of networks and the social impact that is expected in terms of developing and expanding the traditional boundaries for freedom of individuals in society.”
“It has not been massive, understood in its quantitative aspect, directly at least. The data confirms this,” Recio adds.
The latest statistics (pdf) from the Cuban National Bureau of Statistics and Information reflect that in 2013, only 26% of the Cuban population had access to an Internet service or a home network, which only provides e-mail and allows the use of websites located in the country.
The policy of Internet access in Cuba favors free use in universities and research centers, but limits public access points with high prices in comparison to citizens’ average income. One hour of Internet browsing costs $4.50, and only 60 cents when it is for domestic use. The average monthly salary in Cuba is $25 CUC (roughly convertible to $25 USD).
During the first round of talks between Cuba and the United States, held in Havana in January 2015, Josefina Vidal said that Cuba was willing “to welcome U.S. telecommunications companies to explore business opportunities in this field (…) that may be beneficial for the country.”
A look at the most controversial resolution
In late July 2007, the Ministry of Informatics and Communications issued Resolution 127. The Safety Regulation for Security for Information Technologies annex contained various controversial articles that have been analyzed in Cuban blogs in recent times. Article 72, for example, “prohibits the placement of pages or websites from state entities on foreign servers that offer these services for free.” This would include blog and social network services used by university professors, students, doctors, and other users that access the Internet from these state institutions.
Partiendo de la existencia de múltiples grupos, sociedades e individuos con intereses afines a la política estatal, es válido cuestionar los costos y la eficiencia de los mecanismos burocráticos que limitan la posibilidad de brindar sus contenidos bajo el dominio .cu. Ni hablar de las comparativas entre la calidad de los servicios sin costo que ofrecen reconocidas empresas foráneas respecto a las escasas alternativas nacionales.
Based on the existence of multiple groups, societies, and individuals with similar interests to the state policy, it is valid to question the costs and efficiency of bureaucratic mechanisms that limit the possibility of providing their content under the .cu domain. Not to mention the comparisons between the quality of the free services that recognized foreign companies offer and the limited national alternatives.
Other articles prohibit “the establishment of email accounts from state agencies on servers located outside the country, considering that the uncertainty of the use of such means for the entity is beyond the control of the Cuban State,” and suggest that “subscribing to email lists and using chat services by the staff of an entity be authorized under the direction of the entity itself in all cases.”
This resolution has provided a legal framework for penalizing, expelling, and taking administrative action against bloggers and social network users who occasionally publish posts that are considered “politically incorrect” by some managers of state workplaces. Nonetheless, nobody seems to remember when professionals use their personal sites online to transmit a triumphalist and non-controversial image of Cuban reality.
Another literacy campaign
An article published in the Temas journal concludes that “the use of ICT in Cuba and the assumption of the Internet as a repository of information, a tool for e-commerce, and/or for the development of political campaigns, almost always from a vision of dissemination, is a long way off from the necessary understanding of this scenario as a space for conversations and direct dialogue between representatives and the people.” Back in 2011, in La Jiribilla, Recio said:
Cuando en 1961 el pueblo cubano decidió conquistar para sí su derecho al futuro mediante la diseminación de las “letras” a través de una campaña masiva de alfabetización, estaba, al mismo tiempo, ofreciendo el “arma” liberadora de la lecto-escritura y resolviendo una gran deuda social con el ciclo tecnocultural gutemberiano.
Cincuenta años después, en los nuevos escenarios, es acaso imprescindible otra alfabetización, esta vez para insertarse más plenamente en el nuevo ciclo tecnocultural abierto por la infocomunicación digital.
Esta otra alfabetización —digital / informacional— que necesitamos, parece ser un asunto tan urgente como el del marabú. Resolver la infección de las tierras es condición para ofrecer alimento a los estómagos; desperezarse, ir en campaña hacia un modelo de sociedad sustentada en el valor del conocimiento nos daría ciertas garantías para un futuro en el que toda vocación no se reduzca al mero estómago.
When in 1961 the Cuban people decided to conquer their right to the future for themselves through the spread of “letters” via a massive literacy campaign, it was simultaneously offering the liberating “weapon” of reading and writing, while solving a great social debt with the Gutenberg techno-cultural cycle.
Fifty years later, in the new scenarios, another literacy is almost imperative, this time to insert yourself more fully into the new techno-cultural cycle opened by digital info-communication.
This other alphabetization – the digital/informational kind – that we need, seems to be as urgent an issue as the marabou one. Curing the infection of the lands is conditional to offering food to the stomach; stretching out, going on a campaign towards a societal model sustained in the value of knowledge would give us certain guarantees for a future in which every vocation is not reduced to the mere stomach.