Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fidel likes the Internet, but does that matter?

A recent story on Fidel Castro's 87th birthday calls him a "soldier of ideas on the Internet," who, according to his biographer and book editor, Katuiska White, surfs the Internet for "personality profiles, maps, monographs, data, anecdotes and recollection of events."

This took me back to the early Internet days, when the role of the Internet was being debated in Cuba. What was Fidel's view of the Internet?

One clue is his support of the formation of the Youth Computer Clubs (YCC), several of which had email and Usenet access in the pre-Internet days. This article recounts his financial and policy support of the clubs. As shown below, he expressed his envy of the young people at the dedication of the YCC headquarters, which occupied what had been the Sears store in Havana.

Fidel Castro dedicates the YCC headquarters
This post by Omar Pérez Salomón includes several other quotes and actions indicating that Fidel continued to favor education in computer science and the use of information technology (though perhaps not the Internet).

On the other hand, government leaders like Raúl Castro and Ramiro Valdés have warned of dangers the Internet poses.

Raúl Castro and Ramiro Valdés
The state of the Internet in Cuba today leads one to conclude that, whatever Fidel may say or believe, widespread access of the citizens to the Internet has not been a priority of the government.
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