Saturday, September 19, 2015

Roundtable discussion: A society on the (long) road to informatization

The CUBA search engine is part of an effort to reduce dependence on foreign applications.

Wilfredo Gonzalez Vidal, Vice Minister of Communication is speaking. Can readers
identify the others?

A round table panel presentation on "A society on the road to informatization" was held on September 18. The following are a few of the more concrete points that were made.

Wilfredo Gonzalez Vidal, Vice Minister of Communication:
  • There are about 746 ATMs nationwide, in 53 of the 168 municipalities.
Mayra Arevich Marin, chief executive of ETECSA:
  • Connection speed to institutions of higher education has increased from 10-34 mbps. (Also see this post on university connectivity).
  • Counting navigation rooms, Youth Clubs and hotels, there are now 683 public access points in Cuba.
  • They will add more WiFi access points this year. She did not say how many, but did say they would be in nicer locations.
Reynaldo Rosado, vice president of the University of Information Science:
  • Students are working on the development of 128 software and service projects.
  • 13,500 young people have graduated from UCI.
Anamaris Solórzano Chacón, national director of institutional communication for the Youth Computer Club:
  • Cuban search engine CUBA (Contenidos Unificados de Búsqueda Avanzada) was launched in July this year.
  • Ecured, which was launched in December 2010, has more than 140,000 items and 200,000 hits daily. (It is also distributed on DVD and flash.
  • The Reflejos blog platform now has 6,500 blogs and over 5,000 visits a day.
For me, the most interesting statement was by Anamaris Solórzano Chacón. When speaking of the CUBA search engine, she said it was part of an effort to reduce dependence on foreign applications.

As long as very few Cubans have access to the international Internet, it makes sense to offer their own services on the domestic intranet. But, if Cuba opens to the international Internet, as they say they will, their local services will be redundant and unable to scale and compete. Ecured will never be Wikipedia, Reflejos will never be Blogger and CUBA will never even be Bing, let alone Google Search.

China is large enough that, for political and economic reasons, they can sustain domestic versions of popular Internet services, but Cuba is not. I understand and admire the desire to be self-sufficient, but it really isn't feasible in this case. As the saying goes -- "do what you do best and link to the rest." They should invest in uniquely Cuban services.
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