The subject of access to the web and, in general, to the use of new technologies is a matter that is always controversial in Cuba. Its incidence of material limitations, the difficulty and impossibility of connection to the international optic fibre networks, the (restrictive) domestic and foreign (of destabilisation pretensions) policies that have weighed on the use of the Internet on the island and even the alternative means used by Cubans to gain access to audio-visual and information products (the well-known “package” is the most recent) have veiled a wall full of obstacles what we all recognise as a material and intellectual need for the country: its computerisation and achieving a full, efficient access and at the material reach of all Cubans to the advantages of knowledge and information that these new technologies have generated.
I have surely said it on another occasion: with the arrival of computing and especially with the creation of the thruway of information and knowledge, the world has suffered not only a technological change, but rather a much deeper mutation that can be described as a change of era. We are living in the digital age, of computerisation and the Internet, and practically all social, economic, political and even personal relations today pass through a server and the terminal of a computer or a mobile phone. Not assuming it, remaining on the defensive or restricting the country’s participation in a global and historic scientific juncture is to place us at a disadvantage with respect to the possibilities of development, intellectual upgrading, cultural consumption and even leisure and entertainment (activities that cannot be seen at all as something insubstantial among the spiritual needs of human beings of this day and age).
The island’s Cubans’ relation with the possibilities that the new technologies generate have been hampered for too long by material factors and political interpretations. A limited access to the Internet (socialised in recent times), the impossibility maintained for years of acquiring in the country computer equipment or the high prices that today accompany it, have made it impossible or delayed a fluid relation between persons and the opportunities that in the most diverse spheres of social life that huge technological advance offers.
In a country where problems like food production, the constructive state of the cities and of the infrastructure of land communications, the almost insolvable drama of the existence of dual currency and the low wages paid by the State, among others, is as or more urgent than access to the Internet, the weight of the economic difficulties cannot be obviated when speaking of the conditions and qualities of connectivity of persons and institutions.
But, at the same time, the search for solutions to place the country at a higher level regarding the use of the new technologies cannot be put off, since the price that will be paid at an intellectual level of society and of the realisation of its economic potentials can be too high.
The still low and complicated level of Cubans’ access to the web, the slowness or impossibility of access to information, the low quality of the traffic by telephonic means and the frequent “fall of the system,” the low computerisation of libraries and the inexistence of others dozens of practical advantages registered by the new technologies are realities with which we have to deal every day in daily activities (a banking procedure, the renewal of a driving licence or the ID card) or while carrying out the most diverse tasks, which can include the simple need to send an email and facing “congested lines” or dying servers. But from this present full of obstacles it is imperative to look toward the future: the high education and intellectual capacity accumulated by the Cubans can be affected drastically if an economic and political will is not imposed to overcome the current conditions we have to deal with. In the same way, the country’s transformation and modernisation cannot be carried out without the resources of computer science, or using them in a deficient and limited way.
Because it’s no secret that today the development of societies and individuals is linked to their relations with the technologies of the digital age. What barely a few decades ago was a subject of science fiction plots is today the reality of the development achieved by that powerful scientific tool that has revolutionised the most diverse areas of economic, social and cultural activity, even a great deal of the relations between individuals.
The start of operations of the fibre-optic cable laid from Venezuela can guarantee the first solution to the great problem of connectivity (that was carried out – and is carried out – until now by the slow satellite and telephonic system). The rest of the necessary investments must then be seen as what they are: investments that generate a profit for society in all the fields of knowledge, scientific, economic and social progress of the country. The calculations in this sense seem more than clear. (2014)
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