Cuba has been, and is, intent upon being connected to the world, despite propaganda to the contrary, the economic siege, redoubled surveillance, and the fourth generation wars the country faces.
This decision is based not only on a desire to partake of the immense source of knowledge that is the “information highway,” but to add to it the best of our culture, education, knowledge, and humanism, which are the fundamental core of the Cuban Revolution, and the thinking of its leaders.
Digitalization, which has been underway for several years, demonstrates the country’s political will to increasingly make new technology available to the population, as is outlined in the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution, which govern changes being implemented, based on the idea that a prosperous, sustainable society is not possible without adding to such objectives the tools which guarantee access to knowledge, efficiency, productivity and excellence.
At the same time, the 1st National Party Conference established as one of its objectives to, “Utilize the advantages of information and communications technology, as tools for the development of knowledge, of the economy, and political-ideological activity, and to present Cuba’s image and reality, in addition to combating subversive action against out country.”
Over the last few years, efforts to advance Cuba’s connectivity have been directed toward the development of telecommunications infrastructure capacity, with the purpose of strengthening social connectivity, and developing automated operations in strategic sectors such as banking, electricity generation, transportation, and macro-economic development projects, such as the Mariel Special Development Zone, and the Petrochemical Center in Cienfuegos. Significant investment to extend and modernize this infrastructure has allowed not only the initiation of mobile phone and Internet services, but has also given these a social use, prioritizing, and in many cases subsidizing them in sectors such as education, science, public heath, culture and scientific development.
A concrete example of these projects is the creation of information storage and processing infrastructure, through the modernization of the country’s data centers, in addition to the construction of a network which allows connectivity via mobile and fixed devices (cellular phones, tablets, and laptops.) In this effort, steps have been taken at the administrative and enterprise levels to guarantee technological sustainability and sovereignty for the massive provision of Internet access services.
The trial balloon has been the opening of 154 Public Navigation Centers, distributed throughout the nation, as a prelude to the generalized availability of data services, which will allow the country to commercially offer broadband access (with greater speed and options), work on which is currently underway. This has made possible the existence in Cuba of almost three million web users, including institutional platforms, e-mail and Internet; and an equal number of mobile phone users, including more than half a million with access to e-mail via their cellular telephones.
In addition to the extension of connections in multiple locations - to include libraries and post offices - other initiatives are under development, or in the start-up process, to facilitate the distribution of data via mobile phones and the development of platforms for university and institutional networks, which could extend their services to all of society. These and other measures are the result of the gradual implementation of 26 projects which comprise the national information platform, Red Cuba, designed to assure the sovereign presentation of diverse, quality, representative content, produced within the country, developed and administered by Cuban entities, with the purpose of meeting the society’s information and service needs, as well as guaranteeing access to international networks.
The strategy additionally projects the creation of new wireless access capacity; and the integration and orderly use of institutional data networks, such as those in sectors such as public health, education and culture, which are well known by Cuban users (INFOMED, RIMED, REDUNIV and CUBARTE.)
These will be hosted by high performance servers, which will facilitate their potential use.
Also planned is the development of video games and multimedia with educational and historical content, as well as the updating of the regulatory framework governing the use of information and telecommunications technology.
Likewise the introduction of digital television in the country is moving forward, preceded by a broad process of communications technology development, which will reduce, to practically zero, the areas not currently reached by broadcast signals, and modernize television programming.
This process is progressing in line with advances in this arena internationally. The introduction of terrestrial digital TV - “the little box” to our population –required that important investments be made throughout 2013 and 2014.
The first stage has included the installation of 35 transmitters which provide coverage to the entirety of Havana province, the provincial capitals, and some adjoining municipalities, potentially reaching five million viewers. Currently, eight television channels and six radio stations are being broadcast, plus a data channel as an additional asset.
Projected for 2015 is the installation of 17 more transmitters, in order to continue expanding availability of this service, in addition to the acquisition of mobile broadcasting and television production equipment, as well as four laboratories for universities with telecommunications departments. Also set to continue is the digitalization of television production, already begun by the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT), with five provincial broadcasters and the national news service, while a studio was equipped with the latest technology and a high definition mobile unit acquired, which should improve services offered to the population.
These processes have not been exempt from shortcomings and weak spots, generating criticism and dissatisfaction within the population, which increasingly demands more and better services, a challenge which must be assumed not only by the information and telecommunications sector, but by the majority of institutions and society in general.
As these projects have been carried out, the Revolution has been obliged to face not only the limitations imposed by the tightening of the blockade, but also the hostility of some U.S. government entities and isolated elements who resort to the use of new information and telecommunications technologies to attempt to subvert and change our political system.
To this has been added an increasing amount of damage caused to the country by cybernetic events, principally cyber-attacks which pose risks to the security of the country and internationally.
As has been reported by the U.S. press itself, the government of the United States has shifted the greatest portion of its budget dedicated to political-ideological subversion and destabilization of the internal order in our country to this terrain.
Among the most widely discussed operations is Zunzuneo, a mobile phone message service, promoted parallel to national services with the purpose of distributing content hostile to the Cuban government. More recently revealed were secret programs using emissaries from different countries to promote enemy activities directed toward the study and identification of youth who could potentially be converted into “agents of change,” and attract Cuban artists to their subversive actions. Despite all of these obstacles, which have not succeeded in isolating the country, the infrastructure, as well as the legal and institutional framework, needed to defend the country and guarantee the viable development of the digitalization of Cuban society has been created.
At the same time, international cooperation in this arena is being sought. Cuba is advancing in the secure digitalization of its society, without haste, but without pause, conscious that the era of the Internet and new technology must be one of learning, development, inclusion and must also secure, to guarantee the invulnerability of the Revolution, the defense of our culture, and the sustainable socialism our people are constructing.