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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff