Cuba IT & Social Media Initiative

small projects cuba ITThe power of Internet technology and social media to fuel economic growth, enhance communication and expand educational opportunities is, without doubt, one of the legacies of the last quarter century. However, while Internet technology and social media have helped increase communication and grow the economies of developed nations and some emerging nations, others have fallen behind and into an ever-expanding technology gap. If access to basic healthcare and education were the determining factors for development in the past, access to technology may very well be the determining factor for this generation.

Economic barriers and government regulation have impaired millions of people from accessing the technology, social media networks and information that hold the potential to educate, break barriers, inform, connect and empower individuals. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “Everyone has the right of freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

A recent report by Freedom House entitled: “Freedom on the Net” reports that Cuba remains “one of the world’s most repressive environments for the Internet and information and communication technologies,” but offers a glimmer of hope: “a community of bloggers has emerged on the island, creatively using offline and online means to express opinions and circulate information about Cuban society.” In addition, in 2008 the Cuba government announced the lifting of prohibitions banning ordinary Cuban citizens from purchasing cell phones and computers.

In the United States, President Obama has lifted restrictions on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans allowing increased contact and assistance (including technology) to their families in Cuba. New U.S. regulations also potentially allow U.S. telecommunication firms to enter into certain forms of agreements with the Cuban telecommunications provider to expand communications links between the two countries. While delivering remarks on Internet Freedom in January of 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear where the U.S. stands on the issue: "We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas."

While both U.S. and Cuban government policies impede ordinary Cubans’ access to Internet technology and social media networks, the promise of a window to the outside world that technology represents is not lost on Cubans. The goal of the Cuba IT & Social Media Initiative is to identify ways to ensure that Cubans on the island have access to the technology they need to acquire and share information and communicate with each other and the outside world.