Cuba: Computerization with an eye on the citizen (+ Infography)

The computerization process of Cuban society consolidates and marked a standard for our economic and social development in the year that has just concluded.

At the end of 2017, Wilfredo González, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Communications (MINCOM), reiterated that there’s no limitation from the political point of view for Cubans’ access to the Internet, but a willingness to increase both their access and the basic products and services that use new technologies for the benefit of the population.

He explained that the Policy for the Computerization of the Society approved last February is transversal, requires a national plan and therefore, the responsibility of several national bodies and entities, not only from the MINCOM, governing body that directs the resources of the country towards prioritized bodies and projects. “Within that plan we have 21 projects, which have a general scope (…) There started a computerization process of the public records of the country, a process that is run by the central body, that is, the Ministry of Justice, which we must boost together with the MINCOM (…); in the end, we are talking about the procedures and services for the population.”

“Granma Province, he claims, is a good example of what can be done to computerize a group of services with an eye on the citizen, such as the request of a birth certificate, a marriage certificate, or others offered by the Provincial Office of Justice and that are available in the Internet environment, because at least in this first part of the procedure, the citizen can request it via the digital space, in a website. This is, however, a complex process, because it requires an important organizational design in order to introduce technologies later.”

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The Cuban vice minister highlighted the effort of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) in terms of institutional connectivity, as a basis for the computerization of the country and how it is working with national entities, Central State Administration bodies and Software development enterprises in creating conditions and infrastructure capacity. This is a step that allows processes that are computerized within these entities not only to benefit them, but the population as well.

He also praised high-impact projects, such as, the Surfing Rooms opened in 2013 and the so-called public WiFi networks in 2015. “This is a project that is worth highlighting, because we will continue developing it in the coming years and in my opinion it also handles a concept, that is, the concept of sharing and not excluding, as an imperative of our society, of our Revolution.”

According to the deputy minister of the Ministry of Communications, it has been necessary to organize and build more infrastructures for the creation of digital contents and there are outstanding actors in that process, such as the Youth Computer and Electronics Clubs across the country or CubaEduca Portal, of the Ministry of Education (MINED), positive experiences that have been widely accepted and that should continue expanding in 2018.

ETECSA: A main axis for development

As Wilfredo González states, the Telecommunications Company of Cuba continued the expansion of its services in the year that has just concluded, dynamically inserting itself into the computerization process and establishing itself as main axis for the development of society as a whole.

In conversation with Mayra Arevich, ETECSA executive president, she reiterated the priority the company grants to the individual wellbeing and development of Cubans. She said that 600,000 mobile phone lines have been activated in 2017 alone, for a total of 4.5 million in the country and works are underway to surpass 50 percent of telephone density with this service.

There are already more than 500 public WiFi hotspots in all municipalities and the marketing of the highly demanded Nauta Home service began last September 9, with more than 11,000 accesses now.

ETECSA worked on the expansion of other services linked to important institutional networks that later become welfare for the population: all universities were connected and their bandwidth was increased by high reliability fiber optic link; the connection to the most important hospitals of the country with their medicine faculties was completed and it was extended to more than 200 polyclinics and 190 pharmacies, 50 of them in the capital.

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For 2018, Mayra Arevich announced the expansion of the access of the educational sector at all levels, the start of Internet marketing via cell phone and the collection and payment gateway jointly with the National Bank of Cuba –what is known in the world as Mobile Bank– so customers can pay for such services as water, electricity, telephone itself, among others, via their cell phones.

“We have a high commitment with the mission the Revolution has given us with telecommunications development, of being able to contribute to the development of the country and the wellbeing of the population. (…) This is a sector that progresses very quickly and there’s a high commitment with the people”, she stated.

The computer of the Cuban family is boosted

The more than 600 Youth Computer and Electronics Clubs (JCCE) that are scattered throughout the country continued bringing the use of new technologies closer to the Cuban family in 2017. Thus, there stood out products like “Mochila” (Backpack), an important entertainment option that operates as a non-traditional TV cannel and that can be acquired in all Youth Clubs facilities free of charge.

The collaborative Encyclopedia Ecured consolidates today as Cuba’s best positioned website on both web 2.0 and the main Internet search engines, and continues to provide universal knowledge in dominium.cu to the largest possible number of customers with a current rate of 250,000 to 300,000 daily visits.

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For its part, “Reflejos” (Reflections) platform, blog creation space with almost 4000 active blogs, more than 23,000 users and 300,000 daily visits, continued providing a large amount of content to Red Cuba (Cuba Network) based on our identity, interests, tastes and demands of the society.

According to Danays Moreno, director of Youth Clubs Programs, the main challenges of these facilities that are celebrating 30 years of their creation, focused on the community and the family, are the modernization of this national network and the continuous boosting of the products that are offered and to make them sustainable over time.

Other important actors of the process: the University of Computer Sciences (UCI) and the Union of Computer Specialists of Cuba (UIC)

The University of Computer Sciences reached its 15th anniversary in 2017 and celebrated it with more than 14,000 high-profile graduates in the area of computing. More than 50 percent of all computing graduates of the country have graduated from this university, created by Cuban Revolution leader Fidel Castro with the idea that all the country’s territories were represented there.

“We are now in a better position to provide services with an eye on citizens jointly with entities, (…) to take that step more visible, more noticeable by Cubans, and that has to do with infrastructure issues, but we’re in better conditions, along with the institutions, which we’re working with, because we have cleared a path within the institution, in information management. Now, we should continue to consolidate the offers and services to the population”, Rosado specified.

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This year, the Union of Computer Specialists of Cuba has consolidated too and now has more than 8,000 members across the national territory. For its president, Aylin Febles, the entity has achieved important socialization, exchange and learning spaces based on a system of activities carried out throughout the country, has identified more than 100 applications that could have been developed by the individual initiative of a technology professional, private workers, universities, technology companies or from any other sector, but there is already a bank that can be made available for the computerization process.

Regarding the insertion of non-state workers, Febles claimed this is a small force within the UCI, but there are many projects that can be developed from their innovating ideas and an organization that listens to them, gives them prominence and facilities to insert themselves into this process together with other Cuban organizations and institutions. “The biggest challenge for 2018 is that every UIC member has a task, has a mission given by the organization and feels summoned to contribute to the computerization process.”

Present and future challenges

“In 2018, the computerization process of Cuban society will enter, undoubtedly, a higher phase. The application of the policy approved in the cybersecurity field will be an important challenge to protect not only the benefits of the Revolution, but also the data of Cuban citizens who access the Internet”, stated Wilfredo Gonzalez, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Communications.

In terms of access capacity, content development and digital services, the deputy minister considers it is necessary to seek greater affordability of the population, a much more agile organization of the process and to work on what constitutes today the main barrier Cubans have, and not only those of our country, but also those from Latin America: the absence of a relevant digital content in the networks.

Citizen participation as part of a principle of the Socialist Revolution, through the so-called e-government is another big challenge, so that citizens can suggest, share and form part of the process of socio-economic construction of the country, by means of their interaction with territorial bodies and governments via online.

Import substitution and export stimulation is something in which we also have to make progress as long as the industry inserts itself into the process –and not only through the state enterprise– to position a larger number of digital services in the Internet environment in our country and to reorganize the industry of computer applications.

“I think this is even a duty we have with the Commander in Chief, with the view the Commander in Chief had regarding this industry”, the Cuban DM summed up.

Cuba progresses in the safe computerization of society, aware that the Internet era and new technologies should be a learning space, with firm development steps, inclusive and safe in order to guarantee the invulnerability of the Revolution, the defense of culture and the prosperous and sustainable socialism that our people are building.

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Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

Cubans will be able to send SMS to the United States

The Telecommunications Company of Cuba, S.A., ETECSA, announced that, from December 8, 2017, from any mobile phone in Cuba, it will be possible to send international messages (SMS) to any mobile phone in the United States.

Until today, the United States was the only country Cubans were not able to send the SMS, though they could make phone calls both to cell phones and landlines. The cost of this service will be 0.60 CUC, similar to the rest of the international destinations.

For the sending of text messaging to the United States, the user must, at the time of entering the telephone number, dial, the "+" sign, the United States code, 1, the locality code and the cellular number.

The US area codes can be found in the Yellow Pages of the Cuba Telephone Directory

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba: WiFi zones to boost participation of the youngest population

The next opening of three new WIFI zones in Santa Clara, throughout the current summer period, will respond to ETECSA’s projection to boost surfing for children and youth.

The next opening of three new WIFI zones in Santa Clara, throughout the current summer period, will respond to the projection of the Telecommunications Enterprise of Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) to boost domestic websites surfing for children and young people.

In statements to ACN, Dianitsy Barreto, ETECSA’s communication specialist in the province, said that the imitative seeks to make visible the contents made from and about Cuba and that nurture this age segment with knowledge: Ecured and Cubaeduca are two of these platforms, for example.
 
Although they have the same characteristics as the connection spots already installed in several sites in Villa Clara, the aim is to educate them when choosing the contents, and the focus falls on the places where they will be located.

According to Barreto, the first inauguration is foreseen at El Parque de la Audiencia, but later it will be transferred to the nearby Pioneers Palace, currently in renovation stage; as well as outside the Augusto César Sandino stadium on its third-base side, which therefore will light up most of the sports facility.
 
Then, the third zone would be in the vicinity of the Camilo Cienfuegos Zoo Park and in some way they all join together to strengthen the reanimation program of the central region “Villa Clara con Todos” (Villa Clara with All), Barreto added.
 
Seeking the inclusion of children and youth, no matter others wish to use the service, with emphasis on the domestic surfing also responds to the reduction of this modality to 0.10 CUC/hour, since March this year, and is another of the options facilitating web access to users.
 
Barreto explained the new tariff price is only applicable to permanent Nauta accounts, which at the same time have two modalities: international surfing with international mailing and the aforementioned domestic surfing.

Nevertheless, she remarked that users can indistinctively interact with the two types, depending on the modality they choose.
 
The specialist concluded that in addition, so far July her enterprise opened two spots for wired connection in such towns as Calabazar de Sagua, in Encrucijada, and Rancho Veloz, in Corralillo, in accordance with ETECSA’s policy to take WIFI service to second towns within the province.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

3G technology is already making its way in Cuba (+Photos)

Its introduction is perceived in the quality of services and although the Internet does not reach mobiles yet, ETECSA is working to achieve so in the shortest time possible.

The Telecommunications Company S.A. of Cuba (ETECSA) is working to implement Internet access from mobile phones as soon as possible.

Thus informed Tania Velázquez Rodríguez, Central Director of ETECSA’s Commercial and Marketing Direction, in a recent TV program Round Table (Mesa Redonda) to update on the programs the company is developing in mobile and fixed telephony, Internet access, as well as projections for the next months.

As regards the latter, the executive specified that this year ETECSA would continue to ensure the connectivity of local entities as a major support for the country’s development, implement over 200 new public surfing areas, deploy 38,000 capacities for Nauta-Home service with similar scenarios to the experiment carried out in Old Havana.

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"Our company –she remarked– works with all the opinions and perceptions from different sectors of society, and insofar as possible and with the resources we own, we work to meet their expectations".

3G technology at hand

At present, 2G and 3G technologies coexist in Cuba, which allows to share voice and data traffic today, thus leading a better perception of the quality of service, stated Engineer Hilda María Arias Pérez, Central Director of ETECSA’s Mobile Services Division.

Arias Pérez detailed that since March this year the company began to provide prepaid clients with 3G technology, starting from Matanzas and extended to the rest of the territories. This service kicked off in Havana in late April.

She explained that in the last three years the number of mobile lines has doubled and that today they total 4,220,000. So far this year, over 320,000 new clients have been added.

The executive added that such growth requires in parallel a strong investment process to support it, hence radio base stations (RBS) have doubled in three years too.

Consequently, she said, Cuba has two networks now: one 2G, which has a territorial coverage of 75 percent, but covers 85 percent of the population, and also one 3G that has been implemented in the first four months of the running year.

By this time, in 2016, 3G technology was deployed in Havana’s northern coast, part of the airport, the major tourist poles and capital cities.

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For example, 213 new sites have been created in Havana this year.

The engineer said that today there are 846 2G sites and 343 3G ones and that although the latter cover 13 percent of the national territory, they cover 47 percent of the population, since they’re located in the most densely populated places.

From the implementation of the said possibility, which allows faster access to data, hence consulting Nauta mail service has improved, “we have noticed a 3 percent growth in data traffic and almost 20 percent in voice traffic, which means there’s a better quality”, the executive exemplified.

She cleared up that the client’s perception in 3G network depends on the number people close to the radio base stations, what they’re demanding, as well as the mobile equipment they’re using. In 3G network, she pointed out, the mobile equipment is seen as part of the network.

Regarding the type of equipment Cubans should use to connect to the 3G network, she said it should be one that works on the 900 MHz frequency. All equipments with data access on sale by ETECSA have that requirement.

While referring to the promotions and offers of her entity, the executive highlighted: "we know that the main dissatisfaction –and it is ours as a company too– is the topic of tariffs and prices”, but pointed to the need of a fair balance between the tariff and traffic the network can support, which depends on the investments made by the company that are subject to the financial resources available.

However, she recalled that all plans have lowered their tariff. In the case of Nauta Package (Bolsa Nauta), for example, it reduced it by 70 percent. She also drew attention on the over 318,000 activated packages, and the importance that this and other services are self-configured, since the client does not need to go to the commercial office to do so, which was one of the complaints.

"We must combine those offers that allow to recover investments faster with the other ones that are for the benefit of the whole people, because what we do benefits the rest of the services, which are for everyone in the end", she said.

Connectivity grows

Adolfo Iglesias Reyes, Central Director of the Fixed Services Division, underlined that bringing the Internet closer to an increasingly larger number of people falls within the investment plans of the company and today there are already across the country 634 rooms for wired connection, with 2,102 seats for surfing.

As part of the development plans, so far this year 20 of these rooms have been added, with 79 seats. The executive highlighted that 10 of them were opened in hospitals and 4 in post offices.

Regarding Wi-Fi surfing spots, he announced that, unlike the information offered at the previous Round Table, now all municipalities of the country have at least one of these public places, as a result of the 70 created in the first four months of this year.

He added that there are 616 of spaces of this type altogether, counting the network with third parties, as well as that his company is in a full process of modernization, improvement and expansion of all this system.

Linked to surfing in rooms and public places, he recalled that last March 30 the company lowered the fees of the permanent accounts of domestic access to 0.10 CUC per hour or its equivalent 2.50 CUP, as well as the minimum recharge price to 0.10 CUC, also valid for international access accounts.

As for the sales of permanent accounts and recharges, the executive stressed there are 19.8 million now.

He also stressed the connectivity of the educational, cultural and public health institutions, as well as the banking network, and such government entities as industry, agriculture, food, commerce, tourism, etc, which have been benefited by these efforts and investments.

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The company reports more than 30,000 links of this type and of them this year it grew by 2,000, some with major bandwidths.

Making investments visible

At the beginning of the TV program, the Central Director of ETECSA’s Commercial and Marketing Division, Tania Velázquez, had mentioned the complexity of the investments systems linked to telecommunications as main axis to understand the problems to develop the aforementioned activity on the island.

In particular, she drew attention over the fast technology obsolescence and the strong investment processes that are needed to undertake, mainly imposed by the world’s strongest tech providers, since they force through violent and quick processes to replace and modernize our networks, and infrastructure to be in sync with the services the population expects and that convey big financial amounts: millions.

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She stressed that in our case, an important percentage of the technology is imported and its purchase must be financed with incomes from the exportable services provided by ETECSA.

"The funds that we have from our services abroad are the ones that allow us to finance our contractual commitments, not only to develop the investment process, but also to cover the expenses we need to maintain infrastructure and pay international service providers”, the executive added.

Regarding the Internet, Tania said that for this issue the business model is different from voice model, where two operators exchange traffic and share costs and added that in the case of the Internet, the operator providing the service should pay for it completely, thus having a significant impact on hard currency expenditure.

Moreover, she specified that the service provided is paid in full, to support not only the needs of our clients, but also anyone who is abroad and needs to browse a service or content that is in Cuba.

"We have capacity to support that demand, but, evidently, that conveys a major impact on the financial models we have to support”, she highlighted.

"We set priority to the services generating incomes from abroad, but we have also progressed in creating capacities and services destined to the domestic market, to people who do not have the possibility to access the services with payments from abroad. And since December, we’ve seen more dynamism in the promotion of our offers and options, as well as in the implementation of new platforms introduced in our infrastructure”, Velázquez Rodríguez concluded.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Guantanamo Recovering from Hurricane Mathew

Havana, Oct 13 (Prensa Latina) The Cuban province of Guantanamo, especially the municipality of Baracoa, is recovering gradually from the damage caused in recent days by hurricane Mathew, according to reports today in the capital.
 
The newspaper Venceremos reported that after several days of hard work in Baracoa, one of the most affected areas by Mathew, life is beginning to go back to normalcy with the reestablishment of public transportation to and from the area and the continuation of the school year, starting on October 17th.

On the 17th classes will resume in 30 schools, including 21 elementary schools, four secondary schools, one high school, one special-education school and three day-care centers.

The newspaper added that thanks to the effort of 33 teams, composed of 154 men from nine provinces in the country, progress has been made with the cleaning up and sanitation of the city of Baracoa, as well as restoration of the electric and communication lines.

In the municipality of San Antonio del Sur, the recovery goes at good pace, thanks to the support of workers from other provinces the hard work of the population.

According to Municipal Defense Council President Israel Rodriguez, little by little, the damage caused by the hurricane is being left in the past.

Rodriguez asserted that businesses and agriculture have resumed operations, while the Cuban Telecommunication Company (ETECSA) has recovered the optical fiber and 90 percent of mobile telephone communications, and is also making progress in full restoration of the fixed-telephone service.

The provincial electricity company confirmed that of around 78,600 clients affected by Mathew, more than half have seen their service restored, especially in the municipalities of Yateras, San Antonio del Sur and Imias.

  • Published in Now

Cuba to Expand Internet Connectivity, Lower Prices

The telecommunication company said it is opening 35 internet centers across the country and halving the prices of an hour of internet.

Cuba said that it was expanding internet coverage in the country and dropping the price of the hourly usage of internet, the local Cuban daily Juventud Rebelde newspaper reported Thursday.

The newspaper said that the telecommunication authority in the country has plans to open 35 internet centers around the country. According to the Communications Director of at the Cuban Telecommunication Company Luis Manuel Díaz Naranjo, the centers are expected to be ready by July 1 as his organization is finishing up “final settings to ensure the quality of the service.”

The centers would allow people who own WiFi-enabled devices, such as phones or laptops or tablets, to connect freely to the internet.

Diaz Naranjo also said that as of the July 1, the price of one hour of internet will be reduced to US$2 from US$4.50. He said he was hoping that the new measure would increase the population's connectivity to the internet.

“The internet space is opening up here and I think this is a significant step,” Norges Rodríguez, a blogger and telecommunications engineer in Havana told the Guardian. “A year or two ago, we didn’t have anything like this.”

The news comes days after executives from the social media site Twitter visited Cuba and held talks with Cuban officials about expanding into the country. Twitter officials proposed that they would set up the infrastructure that let users tweet via texts. Officials from Google have also made similar approaches.

The latest development in the internet services in Cuba comes few weeks after the United States formally removed Havana from its list of terrorist countries, following decades of embargo and sanctions against the Latin American country. The removal from the list and the subsequent lifting of sanctions would allow Cuba and international companies, including ones in the U.S. to form trade deals and agreements.


  • Published in Cuba

Number of Wireless Users in Cuba Tops 3 Million in April

HAVANA – The number of wireless users in Cuba topped 3 million in April, when a promotion by state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa enabled the company to meet 40 percent of its 2015 target for new cellular lines, the official daily Juventud Rebelde reported Thursday.

  • Published in Cuba
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