Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Why even Google can’t connect Cuba
Reports say Google intends to help wire Cuba and bring the island into
the 21st century. But that’s not going to happen.
By Mike Elgan
Computerworld | Apr 18, 2016 3:00 AM PT

When President Obama said in Havana last month that Google would be
working to improve Internet access in Cuba, I wondered what Google might
do in Cuba that other companies could not.

Today, Cuba is an Internet desert where only 5% of trusted elites are
allowed to have (slow dial-up) Internet connections at home, and a
paltry 400,000 people access the Internet through sidewalk Wi-Fi
hotspots. These hotspots have existed for only a year or so. Also, some
2.5 million Cubans have government-created email accounts, but no Web

I spent a month in Cuba until last week, and I was there when the
president spoke. I’m here to report that those government Wi-Fi hotspots
are rare, slow and expensive. While in Cuba, my wife, son and I spent
about $300 on Wi-Fi. In a country where the average wage ranges from $15
to $30 per month, connecting is a massive financial burden available
only to a lucky minority with private businesses or generous relatives
in Miami.

And this is why I think the possibilities of what Google might
accomplish in Cuba are misunderstood.

It’s not as if Cuba would have ubiquitous, affordable and fast Internet
access if it just had the money or expertise to make it happen. The
problem is that Cuba is a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.

The outrageous price charged for Wi-Fi in Cuba can’t possibly reflect
the cost of providing the service. The price is really a way to restrict
greater freedom of information to those who benefit from the Cuban system.

The strange Wi-Fi card system is also a tool of political control. In
order to buy a card, you have to show your ID, and your information is
entered into the system. Everything done online using a specific Wi-Fi
card is associated with a specific person.

The Cuban government allows people to run privately owned small hotels,
called casas particulares, and small home restaurants, called paladares.
The owners of these small businesses would love to provide their guests
with Wi-Fi, but the Cuban government doesn’t allow it. Nor does it allow
state-owned restaurants, bars and cafes to provide Wi-Fi.

Have you ever tried to maintain a classic car? It’s not easy.
Google is connected to the global Internet through satellite networks.
Cuba is connected to the Internet by an undersea fiber-optic cable that
runs between the island and Venezuela. The cable was completed in 2011,
and it existed as a “darknet” connection for two years before suddenly
going online in 2013.

So here’s the problem with Google as the solution: The Cuban government
uses high prices and draconian laws to prevent the majority of Cubans
from having any access to the Internet at all. The government actively
prevents access as a matter of policy. It’s not a technical problem.
It’s a political one.

In other words, Cuba doesn’t need Google to provide hotspots. If the
Cuban government allowed hotspots, Cubans would provide them.

Everyday Google tech is ‘Art’ in Cuba

While I was visiting Cuba, a permanent “exhibit” called Google+Kcho.MOR
was on display at an art and cultural center in Havana that also
promotes technology. Kcho (pronounced “KAW-cho”) is the nickname of a
brilliant, enterprising, prolific and self-promoting Cuban mixed-media
artist named Alexis Leiva Machado. Kcho lives at the center, which he
deliberately built in the traditionally poor Havana neighborhood of
Romerillo, where he grew up. The M-O-R at the end of the exhibit’s name
are the initials of the walled, multibuilding compound: Museo Orgánico

I took a Cuban death-cab to the Museo Orgánico Romerillo. And, no, the
cab wasn’t one of those awesome American classico beauties from the
1950s that you see in all the pictures of Cuba. The vehicle was a tiny,
charmless Eastern European clunker from the 1970s with a top speed of
about 45 mph, stripped on the inside of all paneling and lining
(presumably by a fire, because everything was black inside) and held
together by wire, tape, glue and optimism — and I swear the exhaust
pipe was somewhere inside the car. (Oh, what this correspondent isn’t
willing to do for his cherished readers.)

The exhibit is an astonishing oddity to Cubans who have never traveled
abroad, but it’s packed with oldish, cheap, everyday Google gear: 20
Chromebooks, Google Cardboard goggles powered by Nexus phones — and
something that has never, ever existed anywhere in Cuba: free Wi-Fi.

Of course, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi, especially in Cuba. Kcho
reportedly pays the Cuban government some $900 per month for the access.
The free Wi-Fi, which I saw scores of locals using with their phones, is
really subsidized. The Cuban government still gets paid. (The password
for the free Wi-Fi is abajoelbloqueo — which translates, roughly, to
“down with the embargo.”)

The free Wi-Fi is the same slow, unreliable connection that a minority
of Cubans elsewhere get to enjoy, minus the cost and the cards. The
Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a magic Google connection some 70
times faster than regular Cuban Wi-Fi. Only 20 people at a time can
enjoy the fast-connection Chromebooks, and each for just one hour at a
time. When I was there, every Chromebook was in use, and each user’s
focus on the screen was total, as you can imagine.

The “exhibit” also had Google Cardboard viewers. (I had read the center
has 100 of them, but I saw only about a dozen.) To use them, you ask a
guy working there, and he grabs a Nexus phone from a drawer and walks
you through the process of launching the Cardboard app and starting it.
Each Cardboard viewer has preloaded content — in my case I enjoyed a
Photosphere of Tokyo.

During the half hour I spent in the Google+Kcho.MOR space, nobody else
tried Google Cardboard. And that makes sense. With no ability to create
or explore Carboard content, it’s just a parlor trick to be enjoyed for
a minute or two. I got the feeling that all the people there had “been
there, done that” with Cardboard and resumed their obsession with
Internet connectivity.

It was, however, obvious that the two people helping us were used to
minds being completely blown by the Google Cardboard and Chromebook
experiences. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I’ve owned several
pairs of Cardboard for two years and Chromebooks for three years.

The Google+Kcho.MOR installation is called an “exhibit,” but it’s not.
In reality, it’s a co-marketing, co-branding effort.

For the Kcho “brand,” it’s a “gateway drug” to lure Cuba’s youth to the
museum and get them excited about art, culture and the world of Kcho.
Along with a cheap snack bar, the free Wi-Fi and the hour a day on the
fastest laptops in Cuba successfully bring hundreds of Cuban kids to the
center each day, and the Google+Kcho.MOR is the main event.

For Google, it’s a massive branding effort. (Google declined to comment
for this story.)

Nobody was willing to talk about it, but it’s clear that Google is
spreading some cash around here. There’s so much Google branding on
everything in and on the Google+Kcho.MOR building, it looks like it
could be at the Googleplex itself.

Even elsewhere in the compound, the Google logo is everywhere. It’s in
several outdoor spots where the free Wi-Fi is used, including all over
the snack bar that serves coffee and soda.

If you’re reading this, you probably live in a country awash in
marketing, co-marketing and branding on every surface. But the ubiquity
of Google branding at the entire Museo Orgánico Romerillo compound may
be unique in Cuba. This is a country without a single Coca-Cola sign or
billboard, zero ads anywhere for anything (other than political
propaganda for the revolution and its leaders and ideals).

During the month I spent in in Cuba, I saw exactly six major public
consumer branding units, and all of them were at the Museo Orgánico
Romerillo, and all of them were about Google (and Kcho). That makes
Google by far the most heavily branded and marketed company in Cuba —
in fact, the only one.

As far as I can tell, Google is getting away with it only because Kcho
is massively favored by the Castro regime and the marketing is all
presented as “art” or in the promotion of art.

What Google is really accomplishing in Cuba

Google appears to have begun its entry into Cuba in June 2014, when its
executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited Cuba after slamming the U.S.
embargo in a Google+ post. The visit was not reported in Cuba at the time.

Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by Brett Perlmutter, who was later
appointed Cuba lead for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as part of
the Jigsaw organization, a “think tank” that actually initiates programs
for making the world a better place, and was formerly known as “Google

In January 2015, Perlmutter, as well as Jigsaw’s deputy director, Scott
Carpenter, toured Cuba together.

One of their goals on that trip was to visit computer science students
at the University of Information Science, as well as young Cuban
Internet users. Another goal, it’s easy to guess, was to meet with
cultural figures like Kcho, and also key figures in the Cuban government.

Put another way, Google has been making friends and laying the
groundwork for a future when the Cuban government allows greater and
better Internet access.

No, Google isn’t laying fiber, launching balloons or installing
equipment all over Cuba. It’s not planning to sprinkle fast, free, magic
Google Wi-Fi all over the island.

The best Google can do for now is make friends and influence people.

Cuba won’t join the rest of the world in ubiquitous Internet access
until the Cuban government either becomes less repressive, or falls out
of power. When that happens, Google, as the dominant and best-connected
tech brand, will be ready.

Until then, no amount of magic Google pixie dust can help the Cuban people.

Source: Why even Google can’t connect Cuba | Computerworld –

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