Cuba promises internet for all by 2020

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Cuba promises internet for all by 2020

All Cubans will have access to the internet by 2020, according to government plans and following the International Telecommunications Union's (ITU) development plan – despite the current underdevelopment of the country's IT and telecom market.

Ernesto Rodríguez Hernández, general manager of computer science at the ministry of communications (Micom) said that the country is "getting ready and making strategic projections to meet those goals," as reported by local news site Demajagua.

In addition to the internet goals, the 2020 objectives also involve raising the mobile telephone penetration rate to 60% on the island. At present there are some 2.5mn mobile lines in the country.

The country's telecom and IT market remains one of the most outdated in Latin America. The latest data from the ITU put Cuba's internet penetration at 25.7% as of 2013, according to a report from US-based NGO Freedom House.

Rodríguez Hernández said that the internet offers great opportunities for development and to increase quality of life, but the government has been focused on other issues like education and innovation.

"[Technology] cannot be taken separately from the other matters the country is facing, because finance is key to developing infrastructure," he said.

ITU's Connect 2020 Agenda for Global Telecommunication/ICT Development, presented in October, established guidelines for member states to achieve greater connectivity. One of the main targets was to achieve 55% worldwide internet penetration by 2020.

Young Cubans prepare to load the latest internet "package" in Havana (CREDIT: AFP).

One of the main obstacles in expanding the reach of the internet is broadband prices. Etecsa, the state-owned telco and currently the sole provider of services, charges 10 convertible pesos (US$10) per month for 20hrs of internet, while 50hrs cost 15 convertible pesos and 220hrs cost 60 convertible pesos. Additional hours cost 0.30 convertible pesos.

These prices are too high in a country where the average working citizen makes around US$20 a month. The government has launched temporary campaigns in which prices have been lower, but has stated that it has no plans to readjust the rates.

Instead, Etecsa has been focused on providing internet through Wi-Fi hotspots and community connection centers around the country. It currently has 154, up from 118 in 2013, and plans to open more this year.

Despite the current precariousness of the IT sector in Cuba, international companies have started looking towards the island as the up-and-coming market. Netflix and Apple have announced the launch of operations in Cuba, whereas Amazon is reportedly preparing to ship to the island.

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