Information Technology in Cuba
Who Uses IT?
Although access to IT in Cuba has become available in universities, governmental agencies, foreign embassies and foreign business interest facilities, the average Cuban citizen does not have personal access to IT in Cuba for a variety of reasons including cost and lack of adequate infrastructure.
Household IT Usage
Estimates of Cuban computer usage vary widely by source. The Cuban government projects that there is one computer for every 100 Cuban citizens and 40,000 Cubans (excluding students and tourists) have Internet access. However, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recently estimated that 60,000 Cubans have Internet access (37). Public Internet access is still very limited, as users must prove they are engaged in research or belong to an accredited institution. Internet access is limited to those deemed to be involved with the country's growth and development. Access is voted upon by a government committee comprised of representatives from the Interior, Justice and Armed Forces ministries. The Cuban government is planning to sponsor Youth Computer Clubs that will provide Internet access to 150 youth clubs and more than 2,000 post offices.
Comparison of Caribbean Usage
Source: NUA Internet Survey of Latin American Online Users (40)
Government and Industry IT Usage
The state sector dominates 76% of the Cuban economy, while private sector endeavors comprise only 24%. By occupation, the labor market is comprised of the following sectors: services and government, 30%; industry, 22%; agriculture, 20%; commerce, 11%; construction, 10%; and transportation and communications, 7%. High-tech workers are included in the services and government category and Industry estimates project that the Cuban high-tech industry currently employs only 5,000 workers (34).
The Cuban government's restrictive attitude towards information and lack of Internet access are a constraint to IT usage. Currently, the Cuban government invests 1.17% of GDP to technological research and development. IT professionals are increasing, with a rate of 1.8 scientists and engineers per 1,000 citizens, 47 universities, and over 200 research and development centers. However, IT training is restricted by the technology currently in use. Much of Cuban connectivity is based on the X.25 protocol, which is outdated and poorly suited to IP traffic. Technological training will likely shift when more capital is available (35).
Limited access to hardware and information compounds these difficulties as well. IT professionals must contend with 2,400 bps data transfers and constant redialing to make connections. Cuban technicians cannot go online and download the latest version of software or hardware and very few have access to technical books or industry journals (36). Since Cuba is not a nation engulfed in IT such as the United States or other higher-income nations, the focus of Cuban IT is still on programming and not on other areas such as training or hardware development. Cuban IT professionals continue to meet the country's technical needs, but with antiquated IT infrastructure and poor anti-piracy laws, few IT professionals are flocking to the software development industry.
Cuba's Vision for its Information Society
On a global front, the Cuban government believes its expertise in telemedicine, biotechnology, and multimedia will guide the Cuban IT future. Outsourcing of software professionals will provide hard currency for the Cuban government, additional technical training opportunities for its high-tech labor force, and industry recognition for the Cuban IT program.
The Cuban government has begun to sponsor international IT events as a showcase for its IT talent. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment sponsors an annual International Network and Telecommunications Event in Havana. This conference discusses e-commerce opportunities, new Internet technologies, utilization and security of networks, information services, and an exhibition of modern networking products. However, few Cuban citizens attend these conferences, as the targeted attendants are representatives from foreign companies.