OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Photo: Courtesy of Citmatel

Despite its almost 20 years of experience, the Advanced Information Technology and Electronic Services Enterprise (Citmatel) has reinvented itself to better adapt to the changes presented by the updating of Cuba's economic model.

Wasting no time, the entity affiliated with the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment, has taken on the task of "sustaining and developing what has been accomplished in the field of social, educational technology," which the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba defined as a pressing need.

The Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution, approved at that time, called for "designing a comprehensive policy of science, technology, innovation, and environment which takes into consideration the accelerating process of change in these areas and their growing interrelationship, with the goal of responding to the development needs of the economy and society, in the short, medium, and long terms; one which is directed toward raising economic efficiency, satisfying the population's needs, and encouraging their participation in the construction of socialism, protecting the environment and the national culture."

Immersed in this context, with a presence in all of the country's provinces, the company with its headquarters on 47th Avenue in the Havana municipality of Playa, has assumed the provision of services to respond to the needs of the public. In other words, meeting their clients demands. Noteworthy among the services Citmatel provides the population, and other enterprises, are online commerce; the diagnosis, repair, and maintenance of computer equipment, tablets, cell phones, etc; maintaining the .cu domain registry, including the awarding of internet addresses, in addition to designing and hosting websites, as the only company authorized to do so in the country.

According to Communications Specialist Mariana Saque, one of the services which distinguishes the company is the sale of software for the administration of small businesses by the self-employed. For those who have little knowledge of the digital world, Citmatel provides "a simple way to manage the accounts of a private initiative, available on a CD which facilitates the completion of tax returns which must be submitted annually to the National Tax Administration Office."

According to the expert, "For a modest price of 80 CUP, the CD can be acquired, and free of charge, any updates and technical assistance for users. The program has the advantage of being continually updated to reflect terms and regulations issued by the Ministry of Finances and Prices."

Available at all Citmatel branches around the country and electronics stores, the innovative software is aligned with changes which have been taking place in Cuba. Mariana Saque insists that the company is very pleased to have such a useful and popular product.

The company is likewise involved in distance learning, providing several courses associated with technology and the environment; quality control; weights and measurement; and social sciences, via the site www.cursoenlinea.cu, where topics of interest domestically and internationally are offered.

The classes are presented by experts in different fields, who evaluate and accredit students, and include internet connection time free of charge, to access the course. Along these lines, Saque explains, "We provide not only distance learning classes, but also hold them in person."

The design of videos, spots, banners, websites and multi-media promotional materials, as well as access to the internet and international e-mail in public cyber-navigation centers are also among the services provided by Citmatel.

Focused on the production and distribution of Cuban created content, Citmatel has incorporated video games, developed by university students or the enterprise's staff. Such is the case with Locus, la aventura del saber, (Locus, the adventure of learning), a game centered on the story of a boy enamored of archaeology, who must locate lost objects across Cuba.

"It involves more than the discovery, including the description of each object and its significance in Cuban and universal archaeology. This way we can ensure healthy entertainment much more successfully, since we get people thinking and involve them concretely in learning," Saque said.

Along these lines, Quimitohas appeared, a game which promotes learning about chemistry, while under development is one about human anatomy, and another about natural disasters, including the issue of climate change. Other contents directed toward children are television programs and books for different age groups. Likewise, cell phone and tablet applications have been created.

Marlene Oliva, commercial specialist at the Citmatel publishing house, reported that a recent novelty is that contents can not only be purchased on CD or DVD, but also downloaded, at any one of their offices around the country.

Likewise, the majority of documentaries and videos are subtitled in five languages (French, English, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish), and with just one click, a number of recorded books are available. These, Oliva noted, are not only convenient for travelers and those with limited vision, but also for women, who are almost always occupied with domestic chores, and can listen while they work.

Another effort undertaken by Citmatel is the virtual library they manage, which includes 200 books on a range of topics, from education and health, to self-help and nature, issues that are popular internationally, the expert said.

Founded just six months ago, the digital library, www.libreriavirtualcuba.cu allows users to download whole books or chapters in pdf format.

Oliva explained, "We are not only distinguished by the variety, but also by the quality of our content, which is for the most part unpublished elsewhere." She explains that the authors are carefully selected by an editorial committee of experts which reviews everything under consideration, and also assures a balance between what is produced and topics suggested by clients themselves.

High quality authors have been enlisted, including young scientists, geologists, mathematicians, and teachers, who prefer to publish their work with Citmatel. In Saque's opinion, "Youth who read works by other young people are more motivated by the texts and learning games, guaranteeing us a demanding audience."

There are additionally books on cooking, family medicine, and figures in Cuban history; videos; multi-media presentations; films; and television shows in different digital formats. Oliva emphasizes the library's participation in some 20 international fairs in countries like Mexico, Argentina, and Uruguay, as well as many national events. To date, she adds, "Our products have been very well received."

"Above all, we want to publish titles by Cuban authors, We sign contracts personally or through the institutions with which they are affiliated. Although, at this time, there is but one Citmatel store in the capital, we are thinking about expanding to other areas," Oliva reports.

She adds that the website has been designed to be visually attractive, and features rotating texts and organizational tools, concluding, "The site is colorful and gives space to new items. We inaugurated the library publicly during the recently-concluded Havana International Book Fair, and had tremendous success, because we offered good content in a user-friendly format."