President of the Cuban Union of Computer Specialists (UIC), Aylin Febles Estrada, called on participants to learn, dream and create ways to change the region’s future by building a just, equal and computerized society, during the inauguration of Cibersociedad 2017.
The event, which took place October 17-20 in Varadero’s Meliá Marina Hotel, saw the participation of around 400 delegates from all of the country’s provinces, as well as some 40 participants from 12 countries, who made this encounter an opportunity to present and exchange knowledge.
Topics such as cyber security, electronic or e-governance, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, big data, equality and technology linked to human and economic development, were the focus of debates which generated both queries and challenges.
INNOVATION, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TECHNOLOGY
The majority of debates were led by representatives from government, Cuban and foreign firms, as well as organizations linked to information and communications technologies (ICT).
Of Cuba’s representatives, Deputy Minister of Communications Wilfredo González Vidal gave a noteworthy speech, during which he outlined the ministry’s comprehensive policy to perfect computerization and communications processes currently underway in the country; and progress made thus far.
In this sense he noted that although clear advances have been made in some sectors, the computerization of Cuban society is a complicated process directly linked to other initiatives being carried out across the country.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Inter-American Association of Telecom Operators (ASIET), Pablo Bello, described the ministry’s plan as well-focused and ambitious.
“The issue is doing it faster, which is achieved by working together: companies, the government, universities, society, and looking for more creative ways to achieve this change as quickly as possible,” added Bello.
As such, the ASIET Executive Director went on to speak about the challenges currently facing the region with regard to information technologies, reiterating the importance of infrastructure and economic changes designed to strengthen integration, in order to close the digital divide; a topic that was also touched upon by Cuban experts. For example, Deputy Minister of Industries José Gaspar Álvarez Sandoval, spoke about progress being made in the country’s electronics industry, specifically the production of tablets and laptops.
Isnery Tarabela, director of research at Cuban software development firm Datys, mentioned some of the challenges facing sector entities, including the need to link science more directly to the economy, and support the development of organizations associated with the knowledge economy.
Cuban representatives also addressed the issues of cyber security and e-governance, highlighting the need to better train users in order to tackle the challenges of connectivity and security.
Illegal activity, SPAM mail, threats to national resources, and damage to networks by malware (malicious software) were among some of the key incidents registered by the Computer Networks Security Office through August 2017, according to Yohanka Rodríguez, a member of the UIC.
She went on to note that the government’s policy on computerization of Cuban society must be implemented in an organized, controlled, and secure fashion, by facilitating the use of technologies in order to meet growing demand for information and services, as well as improve the well-being of the population.
The matter of cyber security is being systematically addressed in Cuba, stated Rodríguez, who went on to note that protecting the country from cyber threats through risk detection and managing vulnerabilities is one of the main challenges facing the sector and society in general.
Engineer Jorge Abín, a member of the Board of Directors of the Agency for e-Government and Information Society (AGESIC), came to Cibersociedad 2017 to show how the Uruguayan government is implementing its computerization policy and closing the digital divide.
Abín presented details of the country’s efforts to achieve greater equality by expanding networks and connectivity among the population; an issue which was also highlighted by Dr. Peter Major, president of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development.
Major explained the aims of public digital policies, and spoke about related global initiatives and programs, as well as the impact of the internet in the digital age. Among key challenges facing countries around the world, he highlighted bridging the digital divide, providing broad-band internet for all, finding solutions to problems stemming from the development of telecommunications; as well as innovating and working together to adapt to the ever changing world of ICT.
DIVERSE PARTICIPATION AND ALLIANCES
The week-long event designed to call attention to the reality, future prospects, and challenges of ICT in Cuba, also hosted a civil society forum which brought together private sector workers, academics, and government and business sector representatives to discuss the creation of a more computerized country.
Key topics included industry 4.0, e-learning for healthcare, internet governance, human capital in the development of ICT, and emerging platforms, with debates centering on technological architecture, cyber security and software development.
“Today we are probably leaving with more questions than we had when we arrived, but this means that we’ve learned a lot and that our vision of a digital country has broadened. There’s a lot to do and no time to waste. We have the talent and the determination to contribute to Cuba’s future, and this has been the focus of every forum,” stated Ramón González de la Calle, private sector worker and UIC member.
Meanwhile, the development of a high-performance computer platform for Cuba’s biopharmaceutical industry, infrastructure based on the experience of Chinese firm Huawei, data analysis, big data, and inclusive and democratic governance, were also among issues discussed by participants.
Carlos de Castro, executive president of the Multimedia Production Center for Interactive Television, representing Spain’s University of Córdoba, explained the power of data analysis and use of cognitive technology in the healthcare, business, and tourism sectors. De Castro presented examples of the work done with cloud applications and the social benefits of such platforms.
Meanwhile, bringing fifth generation (5G) technology to life and thinking about the development of a 100% cloud-based network, were some of the topics addressed by representatives from Huawei.
One of the company’s representatives in Latin America, Javier Zarate Hernández, explained the importance of the launch of 5G and the need to find ways to help expand such infrastructure and facilitate the work of cell-phone operators.
Representatives from Colombia likewise addressed important issues, such as the Internet of Things, the Semantic Web, and big data, which must be viewed as a whole when thinking about how technology can be effectively used to achieve economic and human development.
Meanwhile, a notable panel discussion took place on gender in ICT, during which the role and contribution of women in the sector was highlighted as one of Cuba’s achievements and an example of the level of professionalism and concrete actions being taken in the sector.
Panelists also presented various technological solutions designed to support and empower women within Cuban society.
In this regard, ASIET Executive Director Pablo Bello noted that the island is doing more than many other countries around the world to support and promote women engineers and computer specialists.
“Women in leadership roles are making a visible contribution to matters linked to the country’s future, and I think this is fantastic,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the solutions fair was one of the most popular events of Cibersociedad 2017. Over 20 application projects to solve social and economic problems were presented by delegations from practically all of the country’s provinces. Developers were given just a minute and a half to exhibit their novel solutions to the public and jury, who then evaluated them one by one and awarded prizes to the best.
Cell-phone applications, IT management service projects, social microblogging networks, video games, digital stores and multiplatform augmented reality projects linked to Cuban history, were some of the ideas presented in this space, where a total of six prizes and four special mentions were awarded.
Memorandums of understanding were also signed during Cibersociedad 2017; including one between national entities and another between Cuba’s Software Applications Entity (Desoft) and Germany’s International Software Quality Institute, iSQI.
The Directors of Desoft and iSQI, Luis Guillermo Fernández Pérez and Stephan Georicke, respectively, signed the agreement with the objective of ensuring the international certification of Cuban specialists in different software development life cycle processes, and allowing iSQI to expand its market to the region.
Regarding the agreement, Fernández Pérez explained that “the firm is transforming with a view to approaching the issue of information technologies as is done around the world. For the last two years we have been working to change our production business model in order to sell software products and associated services. As such, this agreement is, for Desoft, an opportunity to offer the Spanish-speaking market our products and provide Cuban entities with training and certifications linked to these areas.”
Meanwhile an agreement was also signed between the UIC and Technological Information Enterprise, affiliated with the BiocubaFarma group. According to Aylin Febles, UIC president, the accord aims to facilitate collaboration on courses, events and training of sector professionals, between the two entities.
THE TIME IS NOW
After days of debates on information and communications technologies and their role in 21st century societies, Cibersociedad 2017 came to an end.
One of the key strengths of the encounter was its range of topics, which together with high turnout figures, signified a promising start for this debut international event.
Speaking to Granma International, ASIET Executive Director, Pablo Bello, highlighted the quality of Cibersociedad 2017 and importance placed by the island and its universities on the topics addressed during the event, with the participation of highly skilled Cuban professionals and noteworthy international guests. “I’m leaving here very pleased with everything I’ve seen over these days and of the people’s commitment and motivation to working,” he noted.
In her speech during the closing ceremony of the encounter, Aylin Febles Estrada congratulated participants on making the event a space for enriching debates. “We dreamed in this event, and now it’s time to act,” stated Febles.
According to the UIC President, in light of the maxim “Lets dream and act,” the organization will collect all the proposals from Cibersociedad 2017 and present them to the county’s leadership.
Meanwhile, in his comments to the press, First Vice President of Cuba’s Councils of Sate and Ministers, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermúdez, who presided the closing ceremony of this first international encounter organized by the UIC, stated that: “I think we must recognize the role of the UIC. It’s a very young organization able to achieve this level of convocation and in so doing has come of age. Now the only thing that remains for it to do is continue. They must be integrated; develop applications and services for the people, in order to move much rapidly toward e-governance,” he noted.
Overall, Cibersociedad 2017 exceeded expectations and raised the bar looking toward its second edition in 2019, which hopes to see greater participation and promotion of the work being done in Cuba. The event also gave representatives from other countries the opportunity to share their experiences; proving that together it is possible to build cyber societies benefiting citizens.