Cuba Unveils Policy for Expanding Use of New Technologies

HAVANA, Feb 20 (NNN-EFE) – Cuba is launching a “strategic” computerization policy that will involve infrastructure and technology development, e-commerce and expanded access to the Internet, state-run media reported Thursday.

The new policy, unveiled by the Communications Ministry at a national forum inaugurated Wednesday in Havana, will seek, among other things, to ensure “increasingly affordable and competitive prices” for Web use on the Communist-ruled island, which has one of the world’s lowest Internet penetration rates.

State telecommunications company Etecsa, for its part, confirmed to Efe that it will temporarily lower its per-hour charge for Web access at the island’s Internet cafes, a promotion that will run until April

Etecsa also recently said it plans to expand the number of Internet cafes on the island to 300 by the end of 2015 and install WiFi in public spaces.

Only a small number of academics, journalists and other professionals in Cuba currently have access to the Web from their homes, while the remainder of the population must use Internet cafes where the hourly rate is $4.50 per hour, an exorbitantly high price in a country where the average salary is between $20 and $30 a month.

The current situation does not promote the use of information and communication technologies on the island, Deputy Communications Minister Wilfredo Gonzalez acknowledged at the inaugural National Workshop on Computerization and Cybersecurity.

But the tools of the new computerization policy will make ICT a “strategic development sector for the nation, while strengthening the economy and facilitating broad access to digital service content,” Communist Party daily Granma reported, citing Gonzalez.

Havana, which blames its technological backwardness on the decades-old U.S. trade embargo, has said it is open to exploring mutually beneficial business partnerships with American tech companies in the wake of the recent thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.

California-based Netflix launched its streaming service in Cuba earlier this month, while Google last year made its Chrome browser available for download in Cuba.

The process announced by the Communications Ministry envisages an “orderly and safe” technological leap for the Cuban population and its institutions, Granma said.

The plan also will emphasize cybersecurity with a new legal framework and the development of homegrown applications and solutions by a domestic software industry.

Official daily Juventud Rebelde for its part said participants in the forum stressed the need to “promote exports of computer services and products, establish business models among telecommunications operators and providers, and foment the creation and development of state companies in harmony with non-state forms of management.”–NNN-EFE

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