03/12/08 - Cuba-L Analysis (Albuquerque) - Cuba and Information Technology
By Nelson P Valdes
INFORMATICS INDUSTRY 
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
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.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  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."
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. Some of those software
products are advertised in the Internet.
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."
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.
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
Digital Granma International
Digital Juventud Rebelde
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:
Isla de la Juventud: VictoriaCiego de Avila: InvasorSantiago de Cuba: Sierra
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
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.
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
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
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
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
 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.
 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).
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