Internet giant Google Inc has made its Google Play and Google Analytics platforms freely accessible in Cuba, indirectly suggesting that the U.S. government lift the 50-year-old embargo on its communist neighbor.
This is Google’s second indication of support for Cuba after it offered Cubans access to its Chrome browser earlier in August. Google Play comes with a large collection of free apps and online games. But Google cannot charge any Cubans for its services as long as the embargo is in place.
U.S. companies are banned from doing business in Cuba. This is of course a matter of concern for the Silicon Valley giant, whose executives have launched a global campaign to free up the Internet and turn the world into a global village.
Google first started reaching out to Cuba after Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt returned from a visit to the island. On his return to the United States, he voiced concern over how the embargo had crippled the economy of the communist country and deprived its inhabitants of several modern amenities that people elsewhere in the world are enjoying.
“The Internet is heavily censored and the infrastructure, which we toured, is made out of Chinese components. The ‘blockade’ makes absolutely no sense to US interests,” Schmidt wrote in a blog.
He went on to say that the Internet in Cuba was trapped in the 1990s. “About 20-25 percent of Cubans have phone lines but mostly subsidized land lines, and the cell phone infrastructure is very thin. Approximately 3-4% of Cubans have access to the Internet in Internet cafes and in certain universities.”
There has been growing pressure inside the United States to end the embargo, which analysts believe has done nothing but harm the layman in Cuba.
The Obama administration has allowed Cuban Americans to send money to their family back home, but the restrictions on U.S. firms doing business in Cuba are still in place. Cuba’s economic fortunes could have been changed had Fidel Castro made way for democratic elections instead of handing power to his brother Raul.
“Cuba is perhaps a leader of Latin America education, culture, and business.” Schmidt writes, adding that “Cuba will have to open its political and business economy, and the U.S. will have to overcome our history and open the embargo. Both countries have to do something that is hard to do politically, but it will be worth it.”
By Narayan Ammachchi, Nearshore Americas
December 4, 2014