Sunday, June 21, 2015

Computerization The Old-Fashioned Way

Computerization The Old-Fashioned Way / Dimas Castellanos
Posted on June 19, 2015

The Information Society (IS) is an effect of a process of convergence
among technological advances, the democratization of information, and
communications, which erupted in the 1980s with such force that it
caused the United Nations to call a world summit on information, which
took place in the Swiss city of Geneva in 2003. At this summit, a
Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action were adopted, whose
principal beneficiaries are individual persons who have the training for
intelligent and creative use of modern technologies, without which
social and cultural progress would be impossible.

Among the demands of the new information technologies, arising from
their transformative character, is the need for immediacy when
introducing them. One peculiarity that distinguished Cuba since the
colonial period: the steam engine, patented in 1769, was introduced into
Cuban sugar production almost immediately. The railroad, inaugurated in
1825, linked together the towns of Havana and Bejucal in 1837. The
telegraph, which sent the first long-distance message in 1844, initiated
its first line in Cuba nine years later. The telephone, which premiered
its first service in 1877, came to Cuba in 1881. The electric light
bulb, which in 1879 was enjoyed in only a few important cities in the
world, by 1889 was being utilized in Havana, Cárdenas and Puerto
Príncipe, and in theaters such as Payret and Tacón. The motion picture,
patented in 1895, was exhibited in Havana in 1897. Radio, which
commenced in 1920, was launched in 1922 in Cuba. Television, almost
parallel with the United States, began broadcasting from the first Cuban
station in 1950. While the Internet began officially in Cuba in 1996,
more than 10 years after it was in use in other latitudes.

This past February, the First Vice President of the Council of State,
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, at the closing of the first National
Computerization and Cybersecurity Workshop, set forth some issues
regarding the Information Society that call for discussion, debate and

1. Internet access implies at the same time challenges and
opportunities, and constitutes an action necessary for the development
of society under current conditions.

If the Information Society is distinguished by the generalized and
efficient use of modern technologies in the era of globalization, when
information has transformed the raw material of all activity and of each
person, nobody could deny that, besides being necessary, it contains
challenges and opportunities that must be faced. Regarding this thesis
there cannot be disagreement.

2. Its access strategy should become a fundamental weapon of the
Revolutionaries to achieve social participation in constructing the
project for society that we want, starting from an integral design of
the country. And I add that the usage strategy of this tool must be lead
by the Party and should involve all institutions, and society, to
achieve the fullest use of its potentialities in service of national

If we start from the premise that it is a necessity for all, then
Internet access strategy cannot become a fundamental weapon of the
Revolutionaries, but rather of all, because the Revolutionaries are only
one part. And the project for society that we want (if that "we want"
includes everyone) has to be agreed-upon by all.

Therefore that inclusive stragegy should not and and cannot be led by a
party, which, as its meaning indicates, represents a "part," whereas
development is incumbent on all, not only on the Revolutionaries and the
members of a party. This statement contradicts another part of the
speech in which Díaz-Canel said that "we need to distinguish ourselves
by a computerization with all, and for the good of all."

3. Regulations and rules that govern access to the Internet and its use,
should be coherent with current legislation, and align with the general
principles of the Constitution and other laws, and adjust to the
changing needs of social development.

Rather, besides being led by the Party and being a fundamental weapon of
revolutionaries, Internet use should be coherent with the general
principles of the Consitution and other laws. Here, the contradiction is
so flagrant that it becomes inadmissible.

A phenomenon as modern and changing as the Information Society cannot be
subordinate to a Constitution that urgently calls for profound reform,
unless the purpose be that computerization should face the same fate as
other projects in the country that remain stagnant.

The argument should be the opposite: the changes implied by an
information society obligate us to reform a constitution that for a long
time now has not met the needs of development, above all with regard to
citizens' rights and liberties, which constitute an unavoidable need of
the Information Society, and which in the current Constitution are
subordinate to one ideology and one party.

The preceding material demonstrates that the Information Society
inescapably implies the respect for and complete defense of human
rights, the recognition of their universaility, indivisibility and
interrelation, and democratic access to the infrastructure and services
of information technologies.

Díaz-Canel's speech was uttered two decades after the official start of
the Internet. It also came after President Barack Obama stated that Cuba
has one of the lowest rates of Internet access in the world, that the
cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitatantly high, and that the
services offered are extremely limited.

Among measures intended to empower the Cuban people, President Obama
listed the need to increase Cuba's access to communications and its
capacity to freely communicate, and so would authorize the commercial
export of equipment to improve the capacity of Cubans to communicate,
including the sale of communication devices and articles to establish
and update related systems.

The delay in introducing these measures has been accompanied by
restrictions that seek to ensure that information obtained online
corresponds with the Revolutionary ethic, and will not endanger national

In 1996, Decree 2091 was issued, whose articles state that the basis of
Internet access policies will prioritize the connectivity of legal
persons and those institutions of greatest relevance to the life and
development of the country; that to guarantee fulfillment of the
principles laid down in the Decree, access to networked information
services of global scope would be selective; and that direct access from
the Republic of Cuba to global computer networks would have to be
authorized by the Interministerial Commission created by the Decree. [1]

Later, in 2003, Resolution 1802 resolved: Charge the Telecommunications
Company of Cuba to employ all technical means necessary to detect and
impede access to Internet navigation services via telephone lines that
operate in national, non-convertible currency, starting as of 1 January
2004. [2]

The creation of the Information Society is incompatible with the
priority of the Revolutionaries, with subordination to ideologies, and
with a Constitution that endorses these restrictions. The contradiction
is there: either the demands of modernity are assumed, or we run the
risk of continuing to widen the information gap in the country and of
Cubans in relation to the rest of the world.

The full use of the possibilities offered by the new information
technolgies to foment online access that is free and autonomous, rich
and diversified, plural and thematic, interactive and personalized, is a
necessity. Especially in the era in which the diffference among levels
of development is measured in terms of Internet connectivity. Simply
put, computerization the old-fashioned way must be uprooted.


1. Decree 209 of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers on
Access from the Republic of Cuba to Global Computer Networks; 14 June, 1996.

2. Resolution 180/2003, dated 31 December, 2003, of the Ministry of
Computer Science and Communications.

Originally published in Diario de Cuba

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

27 March 2015

Source: Computerization The Old-Fashioned Way / Dimas Castellanos |
Translating Cuba -

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