As the United States and Cuba move towards re-establishing diplomatic relations, many Cubans are hoping that one of the benefits will be access to the Internet.
The island has some of the lowest Internet connectivity in the world but that could be about to change. A U.S. delegation of telecommunications specialists visited Havana in March to discuss the possibility of helping supply and build the infrastructure to expand the Internet. According to the State Department, they were told by Cuban officials that the government is committed to getting the Web into half of all Cuban homes by 2020.
At this year’s Summit of the Americas in Panama, Raul Castro called the Internet a “fabulous invention” but also warned that using it requires caution, as it can be a force for bad… as well as good. As it stands, only one quarter of Cubans have access to the Internet in the island, leaving a large majority of the population unable to go online and profit from the many advantages of this “fabulous invention.” But, in a place where scarcity never trumps ingenuity, Cubans have figured out alternatives ways to get connected and participate, at least partially, in the digital age.
“You have to adapt to the place where you are. In other countries they have Facebook and YouTube, and other social networks,” says Joel La J, band leader of Los Metalicos. “In Cuba, we have the Weekly Package instead.”
Americas Now correspondent in Havana, Michael Voss, looks at how the islanders are coping in an offline world and some of the creative solutions they have come up with.