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Subject: Internet Access in Cuba
From: Britt Marie Häggström <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:BIBLIST - Topics in Nordic research library user services <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 23 Jan 2004 10:14:18 +0100
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----- Forwarded by Britt-Marie Hdggstrvm/DIK-Fvrbundet on 2004-01-23 10:14
-----

                      "john pateman"
                      <johnpateman9@hot        To:       [log in to unmask],
                      mail.com>                 [log in to unmask]
                                               cc:
                      2004-01-22 22:51         Subject:  Internet Access in Cuba






Dear John

Many thanks for this. Could I ask you to share this information with
colleagues around the world by posting the interview on FAIFE-L. You will
find access to the discussion list at
http://www.ifla.org/faife/faife/faife.htm

Best regards,

Susanne

Susanne Seidelin
Director IFLA/FAIFE
Birketinget 6
DK-2300 Copenhagen S
Denmark
Phone: +45 32 34 15 32, or +45 32 58 60 66, ext. 532
Fax: +45 32 84 02 01
Email: [log in to unmask], or [log in to unmask]
Website: www.ifla.org/faife/


-----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
Fra: john pateman [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sendt: 22. januar 2004 00:21
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Emne: Cuba


Dear Paul and Susanne,

With regard to the IFLA/FAIFE press release claiming that Cuba intends to
restrict access to the internet, I would like to draw your attention to the
following interview with Cuba's Minister of Information Technology in which
he makes it clear that internet access in Cuba will continue to increase.
He

also points out how the US blockade affects ICT access in Cuba.

I would welcome your views on this interview, and I would like you to
publish all or part of it on the IFLA website so that the position of the
Cuban government on internet access is available to IFLA members.

City of Havana, January 15, 2004

Minister of Information Technology of Cuba: digitization and Internet
access

will continue to increase

Heriberto Rosabal
2004-01-19

Ignacio Gonzalez Planas, Minister of Information Technology and
Communications of Cuba


Access to data transmission, to the Internet and e-mail services is a whole
chapter, as it relates to the increasing use of PCs. What is happening
there? What is the policy about it?

"In our summary meeting of the results of 2003 and the discussion of the
main tasks for 2004, we explained that the country now has an estimated 270
000 PCs, 65% of which are networked; that there are 1 100 .cu domains; more
than 750 Internet sites and more than 480 000 e-mail accounts. All of our
media, both national and local, can be found on the Internet. Several radio
stations broadcast on the Internet in real time and Cubavisisn
Internacional

[a TV channel] is also available on the Net."

"These figures - reached despite our constraints in communication
infrastructure - reveal an important increase, but they are still, of
course, insufficient. The 6.37 telephone sets per every 100 inhabitants, as
well as the old and deteriorated networks, make it difficult to expand the
totally efficient access to the Internet."

"The progress made has been possible due to the enforcement of a policy in
line with our economic situation and our development plans. We have
privileged the use of the Net in the social field, in public health,
education, science and technology, the national and local TV networks,
culture, the banking system, the most important branches of the economy
and,

much more recently, in the services for the population."

"This policy has facilitated an intense use of the technical connection
possibilities, as well as expansive and growing access, which should
continue to increase systematically. Hundreds of thousands of people in
Cuba

access the Internet, and there will be increasingly more to do so on a
daily

basis. Only through INFOMED, the Internet service of public health, nearly
30 000 professionals, doctors and paramedics gain access to the Net. In
higher education, almost all professors and the vast majority of students
use the Internet, with restrictions only relating to the available computer
time and the speed allowed by our networks.

"Workers in R&D centers also have guaranteed Internet access, constant
scientific-technical upgrades and prompt exchanges with their counterparts
in other countries. A large portion of reporters use the Internet on a
day-to-day basis on the job."

"In the 300 Computer Youth Clubs, found in all of the country's
municipalities, thousands of young people gain access to the network
through

TINORED. Municipal culture centers allow the systematic access by writers,
artists and other culture workers - and through the post-office net halls
(a

service that is just beginning), the population in general will gain access
directly and progressively."

"Besides all this, conditions are being put in place to multiply the use of
IT in the country. First of all, through the endeavor of teaching computer
skills since the pre-school age: all of the country's schools have PCs that
are also used in the teaching-learning process, including 2 368 schools
with

solar panels. Of those, 93 have only one student enrolled. In higher
education, there is a PC per every 12 students, who use this technology on
a

large scale. The recently established Computer Science University (UCI)
already has 4 000 students and will begin to graduate 2 000 professionals
per annum as of 2006-2007. This adds to the IT schools found in all of the
universities of the country. A total of 30 000 students are engaged in
programming studies and other intermediate IT specialties."

"A major effort is being made to enhance the Cuban software industry,
emphasizing health, education, the banking system, telecommunications,
tourism, culture, etc. In the near future, the use of Cuban software in
telemedicine and TV-oriented education will be fairly common."

"Solutions are being examined and implemented to alleviate and add more
efficacy to citizen-oriented services, as well as to develop electronic
mail."

"This is just to give you an example by way of reply to your question, and
taking into account, by the way, that there are some press releases around
saying that we are restricting the use of the Internet."

-          Such releases make reference to a resolution of the Ministry of
Information Technology and Communication that allegedly restricts the
access

by Cubans to the Internet. Is it so?

"Nothing farther from our current reality. In a world where Internet access
is just for the elite, where billions of people have never seen a telephone
set and have no hopes of ever accessing the Net - because a large portion
of

them cannot read or write - the possible path to be followed by
underdeveloped countries, and the most democratic and massive, is the one
we

are traveling down. There's no question whatsoever in my mind."

"The speculations of those press releases and international media reports
these days manipulate a basic measure of protection for Internet networks
and users."

"The world is full of hackers, viruses, Trojans, illegalities in the use of
networks, pornography on the Internet. Everywhere, every day, measures are
taken to prevent this disarray; essential measures for the networks to work
well. Criticisms always come up when we take some basic legality control
measures, and there are people who become concerned about the "freedoms" of
the Cubans, who can be regarded, much to their chagrin, as the freest
people

on Earth."

"I can ascertain that there's no change whatsoever in the policy set forth
for Internet use, whose tenets are that those who abide by the existing
regulations will continue to gain access to the Net; that the access by
Cubans to the Internet will continue to rise as allowed by connectivity and
that we are going to crack down on all unlawful acts to defend the Net. At
the recent World Summit on Information Society, we presented a report
entitled Cuba: ICTs for all, which clearly explains our current situation
and our policy on this issue."

"It was obvious at the Summit that our practice could prove very useful for
Third World countries, whose socio-economic situation demands specific
solutions that have nothing to do with those used and proposed by the rich
countries."

"We'll continue to work along those lines, convinced that the use of the
Internet and the new information and communication technologies, if made
creatively and on the basis of the specific situation of our countries, can
significantly help us develop and defend our ideas and rights, as expressed
by our Commander-in-Chief."

-          In the case of Cuba, how does the US blockade impact the access
to ICTs, since it is said around the world that such use is democratic and
was proclaimed at the Geneva Summit as equal to all?

"The blockade makes everything extraordinarily difficult. In the document
that we prepared for the Geneva Summit there is a very clear explanation of
what the blockade is. The US owns the highest technology and produces very
efficient, modern equipment. It also owns the software industry to some
extent - and its transnational corporations are even the proprietors in
many

other countries."

"We, in turn, on account of the blockade, have to resort to complex
mechanisms to sometimes acquire some technologies, and sometimes we cannot
gain access to them. We have to content ourselves with solutions that are
not the ideal ones. The equipment is more expensive and on many occasions
it

must be brought in from far-flung places."

"Luckily, we have important cooperation schemes with countries whose
technological development is significant, like China (supplier of the
digital exchange centers in Guantanamo, Sancti Spmritus and Isla de la
Juventud). That facilitates the increase in the country's high-quality
technology."

From the Summit on Information Society, Ignacio Gonzalez Planas has a story
connected with the other blockade, which around the globe derives from the
so-called "digital divide" between the haves and the have-nots:

"At the Round Table in which I took part in representation of Cuba, the
delegate of an African country talked in the middle of the debate about our
countries' access to ICTs: 'What are we talking about here, if in my
country

we only have 0.16 telephone sets per every 100 inhabitants? I wonder if
that's the possibility of 'free' and 'democratic' access to the Internet
and, overall, to these new technologies that many consider."

ICTs and the blockade

The US blockade against Cuba seriously hampers our country's access to new
ICTs:

-          Since 1962, Cuba has had no access to telecommunications and
computer equipment owned by any US company or subsidiary.

-          Because of the blockade, the Cuban telecommunications sector has
suffered million-dollar losses in basic and wireless telephone activities,
alarm systems, e-commerce and postal communications. In telephone
activities

alone, losses amounted to US$ 21.7 million in 2002.

-          If the blockade did not exist, with a stake of just 0.1% in the
US e-commerce market, that goes beyond the US$ 500 billion mark per annum
(2000), Cuba could earn more than US$ 500 million per annum.

-          Due to the impossibility of purchasing on the US market, Cuban
company CITMATEL (supplier of computer equipment to the island's scientific
centers) has on many occasions to buy these items through third countries
and pay up to 30% more as opposed to the price in the US.

-          On 10 April 2003, the US Department of Commerce refused to give
an export license to USA/Cuba-INFOMED, a humanitarian NGO based in
California, which intended, as on previous occasions, to donate 423 PCs to
Cuban hospitals and polyclinics to support the diagnosis and medical
information network. "This export would be deleterious to the foreign
policy

interests of the United States," it stated.

-          When the US Army developed the e-mail, Cuba had no access to
that

service or to technical know-how or equipment. The access by the Cubans to
US sites on the Internet was blocked until May 1994. Therefore, Cuba could
not take part in the Internet process at an earlier stage.

-          The Torricelli Act, adopted in 1992, which further tightened the
blockade, identified communications with Cuba as a way to weaken the
revolutionary regime.

-          It is not up to Cuba to be connected to the Internet at the
speed

it would like to or with as many independent channels or providers it can
choose. Each time Cuba tries to add a new channel to the Internet, the US
counterpart must procure the appropriate license from the US Treasury
Department. Likewise, if an American company wants to open a new channel
for

Cuba or decides to upgrade the connection speed, a license must be issued.

-          Cuba's current connection to the so-called Infobahn does not
offer the appropriate bandwidth to meet the country's requirements. The
blockade compels Cuba to use an expensive and slow satellite-related
bandwidth and connection. The problem could be solved with the connection
of

a fiber-optic cable between Cuba and the Florida Straits, but the US has
not

allowed so.

The mirages of the Internet

Internet access is very far from being a benefit to the great majorities:

-          90% of the world's population has no access to the Internet.

-          Over 70% of those connected to it live in developed countries.

-          In Africa, less than 1% of the population has access to the
Internet. More than half of those with connection are from South Africa.
The

shortage of telephone lines is compounded by the lack of electricity. In
Ghana, only 20% of homes has electric power; in Namibia, 5%; in Senegal,
2.3%; in Mozambique, 0.4%, according to figures of the ITU.

-          In Central America, Internet access is a luxury. In Guatemala,
0.6% of the population has access; in El Salvador, the rate is 0.7%; in
Nicaragua, 0.04% and in Honduras, 0.03%.

-          Even in large and populated nations of the Third World, there
are

very few citizens with Internet access: in Mexico, 4.6% of the population;
in India, 1.6%; in Indonesia, 1.8%.

-          In Russia, a former power, only 4.2% of citizens have access to
the Internet.

John Pateman
Information for Social Change

_________________________________________________________________
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