Friday, August 25, 2017

Cuba's Digital Revoluton -- a flawed documentary

Most of Cuba doesn't have the Internet.
The Bertelsmann Foundation has produced a 25-minute documentary on Cuba's Digital Revolution (below). The video is divided into four parts:
While I agree with the editorial point of view that US Cuba policy should remain open, as it was during the Obama administration, the video is flawed.

There is nothing novel about the basic content -- it has all been covered in other videos, articles, and blogs like the one you are reading now.

More important, the video overstates the impact of the opening of the US to Cuba, concluding that "In the two years since the Obama administration engaged with the country, Cuba has taken remarkable steps towards a digital revolution" or stating that "in 2014, after the Obama administration extended an olive branch, the Cuban government began relaxing restrictions on internet use -- the government opened a series of WiFi parks."

Correlation is not causation. The first WiFi parks opened in July 2015, several months after President Obama's policy change, but Cuba had begun opening public access facilities in June of 2013 and the WiFi hotspots were built by Huawei, a Chinese company with a long standing relationship with Cuba.

Carlos Gutierrez, who served as Secretary of Commerce under George W. Bush, went further saying "all the big telecomms -- AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon have roaming agreements with the Cuban government and that's what's enabled all these people to get WiFi." He does not understand the difference between mobile roaming and WiFi or who the roaming users are and I can't understand why that clip was not cut.

But, it's not all bad. The presentation is often engaging. For example, we follow the narrator around Havana as he buys a phone (on Revolico) and gets online at a WiFi hotspot and there is a good interview with a distributor of El Paquete. My favorite part was a conversation in which Cardenas is trying to recruit a contributor for his blog. He takes a thinly veiled shot at the US and goes on to say that he wants to improve and refine Cuban socialism, not abandon it. He criticises the government in order to improve it.

If you still want to watch the video, focus on the vignettes, not the hyperbole. Here it is:

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