Thursday, August 25, 2016

Three lucky computer buffs from Cuba spend summer interning in New York City

Three lucky computer buffs from Cuba spend summer interning in New York City
By Elizabeth Llorente Published August 24, 2016Fox News Latino

NEW YORK – One wants to expand Internet access in his country.

Another wants to work in software and game development.

And yet another is developing an app to help people navigate the
capital's transit system.

They are three young Cubans who were selected from more than 100
applicants to spend six weeks in New York City as part of a program
devoted to technological developments and entrepreneurship in math,
science and engineering.

The program, sponsored by Innovadores Foundation, a non-profit, was
mainly based at Grand Central Tech, which hosts start-ups and gives them
support as they grow.

"What we wanted to do as relations thawed between the United States and
Cuba last year was to find aspiring Cuban [innovators]…to solve Cuban
problems in Cuba," said Miles Spencer, a co-founder of the foundation.
"And so [we're] bringing them up to intern at Central Tech and then
sending them back forms an excellent corps for innovators in Cuba."

To do that, Spencer said, he and co-founder John Caulfield, who is the
former head of the U.S. Interests Section – now the U.S. Embassy – in
Havana, decided to set out "to find the most talented kids, expose them
to resources and techniques here and then return them to Cuba."

This summer's interns were Ruben Rosquete Toledo, a college junior who
wants to improve Internet access across Cuba; Laura Gutierrez Farinas, a
college freshman who is particularly interested in software and gaming
development; and Raynel Gonzalez Irure, a senior who is developing an
app called MyAlmendron that aims to improve the usability of Havana transit.

The interns arrived with impressive skills, a true feat in a country
where telecommunications is spotty and slow, and access to computers and
other gadgets is scarce.

"I've learned several choices to connect to Internet servers," said
Toledo in near flawless English. "Going back to Cuba, I have to find a
flaw in the system or in the Internet connection and try to [fix it] by
using what I learned here to try to apply it."

Toledo, 21, said he became fascinated by computers at the age of 10, and
that his father nurtured his interest.

His father would take him to his workplace sometimes, where Toledo would
spend "hours and hours" just exploring different ways to use the computer.

Caulfield said that getting the Cuban government to support the idea of
Americans wanting to help young Cubans advance their technological
skills was not easy.

"We reached out to the Cuban Embassy," Caulfield said. "We had to
overcome suspicion that this was being done for subversive reasons."

"In Cuba there a lot of people with talent who lack resources," he said.
"The only way to get access is if you're a student or have a job that
has Internet access."

The students were thrilled with the faster working computers and
ubiquitous Wifi here. There are about 100 Wifi spots in all of Cuba.

"To see the look on their faces – it's priceless," Spencer said of
observing their delight as they worked with speedy technology and walked
around an Apple store or "a grocery store that 25 different kinds of
cooking oil instead of one."

Spencer acknowledged the challenges to technological progress and access
in a nation where the government still is leery of change and reluctant
to expose its citizens to ideas that contradict those pushed by the
Communist doctrine.

But for now, he and the interns focus on the "large middle area" of
technology and innovation that is tolerated by government officials,
Spencer said.

"That's the real question that American companies have going into Cuba,"
he said, "how to play by the rules and still make progress down there."

Elizabeth Llorente is the Politics Editor/Senior Reporter for Fox News
Latino, and can be reached at
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Source: Three lucky computer buffs from Cuba spend summer interning in
New York City | Fox News Latino -

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