Revolutionary Christmas / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Somos+, Javier Cabrera, 24 December 2016 — I was an atypical Cuban child because I always had Christmas. My mother, whom they tried to expel from her teaching job once because Christians didn’t have the morals to teach classes to the “New Man,” said that she wasn’t going to let a man tell her whether or not to celebrate Christmas or the Three Kings in her own home.

In those Decembers, she took out the little tree from her childhood, with what we called “the balls from before ’59,” and bought gifts with whatever she could. I remember perfectly that the gifts were increasingly fewer, and in the ’90s moved from the floor to the little table. Of course, the celebration was never interrupted, not even in 1994, a year to forget. continue reading

For me, the year started to come to an end when Christmas showed up in our house. And I suffered many conflicts in kindergarten and elementary school, because I couldn’t understand that I lived in a country that was so equal, and so different.

Today I look back and understand that the best Christmas gift I got was this: “No one has the right to tell you to celebrate or not to celebrate. Your freedom ends when you let one group of the ‘enlightened’ impose their celebrations, wakes, or whatever they want.”

Earlier this year, I landed a few hours apart in the same airport where the Chapecoense team’s plane crashed. I was going to work, and I was warned that there was a huge local party. I heard some fireworks set off in celebration, but not even 3% of what was normal. In general, without imposition, or fines, or prohibitions, I saw a people in pain come together to fill stadiums.

An image in complete contrast to the imposed mourning that same week in Cuba, mourning that they are now trying to extend indefinitely, annulling our freedom to celebrate, or choosing not to participate without facing the loss of one’s job, which in any event only pays a pauper’s wages.

Christmas is many things, but above all it is home, family and celebration. Today it is no longer completely banned, and even so it is scandalous that no one has asked an entire people for forgiveness for forcing them to cancel it.

Today, Christmas day, I remember my mother a lot and thank her for not allowing them to tell her what to do. I also remember friends who didn’t dare, and who didn’t even hear about Christmas until they were older.

Today is a good day to tell the mother of all of us, Cuba, that we celebrate and we celebrate with her. That she gives us once again the ability not to listen to those who would bother a united family that celebrates. To them, as a nation, she also gives the freedom to celebrate their frustrations where no one interferes with them.

State Security fears a Cuban Snowden / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Somos+, Javier Cabrera, 1 April 2016 — Yesterday the news came out in various media: Ultra-secret information has been stolen from the Cuban Ministry of the Interior. The poor proclamation “Raúl’s Sovereign Technology” showed itself more focused on censorship of content and limiting communication than on constructing a true plan of security in the service of the nation.

It’s not the first theft of confidential information, although the previous ones were by citizens and not directly by people in the military, like the surveillance videos in Havana or the telephone directory of the state phone company ETECSA. The absurd pledge of reinventing technology has ended up being, as expected, manipulation. continue reading

State Security, formerly considered one of the most efficient bodies, has succumbed to ridicule. The absence of generational relief to conserve jobs and benefits, the government secrecy and the absurd plan of creating technologies that are dedicated only to counteracting the bad reputation of the “Revolution” in the digital world, such as in this blog, have produced fruits, although they aren’t the ones hoped for.

The Internet and technology are not re-inventable. It’s not necessary to adapt technology to Cuba, but for Cuba to enter with full force into technology. It’s not a matter of creating professionals to work in offline businesses, repair computers or traffic in movies, but of forming true leaders in digital businesses that generate quality employment at all levels.

While this change in mentality doesn’t happen, it’s more than probable that this isn’t the only case that scares the analog government of Havana. I’m very curious to know if Raúl will defend the rights of a “Cuban Snowden” when he’s presented to public opinion with the same arguments as the North American analyst.

Mr. President, permit me to welcome you, on behalf of all computer engineers, to the Twenty-First Century.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Nauta vs. Gmail, and the Stupid Strategy / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Somos+, Javier Cabrera, 30 December 2015 — As a result of the Paris attacks, many governments have put growing pressure on the technology companies to have “backdoors” in order to access users’ information without needing a judicial order. In the U.S., the debate is at its highest point, openly, with the citizens aware of the fight and the technology companies giving their opinions. Such is the case with Apple and others that have announced they won’t deliver users’ data for an increase in security, and the government isn’t taking it easily.

China also is trying to take advantage of the debate, although with a focus a lot more twisted and behind the backs of its citizens, wanting to compel by law all the technology companies to give them whatever information they request, and threatening grave consequences for the economy and the competition. continue reading

Recently the Cuban trolls attacked us in the article, “The Cuban Government is stealing your digital information,” saying that it’s something that happens in the whole world, forgetting the fact that citizens and companies are aware that backdoors have ended. In Cuba, everything is backdoor, since it’s the Government itself that constructs and manages technology security, preventing the development of independent companies and limiting access to the Internet.

There is a with email service. The Government would have to ask Google through a judge for the emails of a specified person, in a range of closed dates, with a formal accusation that wouldn’t be tied to crimes of thought or fabricated. This would limit much of the control they think they now have, and would leave in evidence the methods of State Security.

For that reason, Cuba spends between 3 and 5 million dollars a month, according to conservative estimates, to maintain as a way of having total access to the correspondence of Cubans. In spite of the large cost, the service suffers “leaks” thanks to poor management. A is perfectly viable today with today’s infrastructure, at zero cost, and with a service that would never drop, break, be interrupted and would cover or exceed the expectations of a public that wants to use more technology. I repeat: It’s completely viable, but as the New York Times says,”It only lacks political will.”

To this we must add that everyone I know in Cuba has an alternative to Nauta for matters where they don’t want the Government sticking its nose in. This strategy limits the real capacity of State Security’s spying but doesn’t lower the cost of Internet services, so desperate people have to use Nauta at moments of urgency. In the real world this is called “competitive barrier and unfair monopoly.”

The Socialist Government Technology is defined in Cuba by the lack of clarity about who has access to your data, the non-existence of defense mechanisms, the lack of transparency in the system, the very high cost and very poor service…with citizens looking for real alternatives to break the control and to show how stupid and unnecessary the whole system is.

We young Cubans must continue to push. We can’t remain indifferent, conforming to what they give and sell us as technology. We are paying for the service; we can make demands. Let’s fight in 2016 for a REAL INTERNET, independent of the Government. We have the right, as does the rest of the world, to discuss our security and to know who has access to our communications. Let’s demand full respect for our privacy and leave it clear that no captain, lieutenant or mercenary of the University of Informatic Sciences (UCI) can give a damn about what we say with our family or friends.

Translated by Regina Anavy

A Second and Even More Important Literacy Campaign / Somos+, Guennady Rodriguez and Javier Cabrera

Somos+, Guennady Rodriguez and Javier Cabrera, 17 July 2015 — The literacy campaign was an important chapter in the romantic years of the Revolution. Forgetting the propaganda factor, it was a national effort and it brought out the most noble of its protagonists. To aspire for every Cuban to be able to read and write is still a high standard for our human and patriotic duty.

The results of the campaign were successful. Within only three years, the illiteracy rate declined from more than 20% before 1958 to 3.9% by 1961. This brought opportunities to around 707,000 Cubans, who, as of this moment, were able to have a broader access to information and culture. This was the modern equivalent of getting Cubans “online” with universal knowledge. continue reading

Today, however, we use criteria different from that of the 20th century to determine whether a person is “literate” or not. In pre-digital societies, people were only required to be trained in the print media. In this century it is essential to know how to get to the information and resources on the Internet, and how to interact in digital social networks.

In 2015, Cuba stands as one of the least connected countries in the world. This is a serious problem that the new generations are inheriting. It is absolutely contradictory to be boasting about the great aspirations of public education while limiting universal and complete access to the Web.

This is a national emergency and it will not be solved with a “drop-by-drop” Internet, because every day other societies exponentially increase their skills in these information fields, becoming more competitive. We know that there is a plan by ETECSA — the State telecommunications company — to connect 50% of Cubans by 2020, but… shouldn’t we be coherent with the standards of ha digitally literate in less than three years…? For every day of delay our youth pay a high price…

Would the Cuban government and people be willing to promote a digital literacy campaign, inside and outside the island, with the same magnitude of the one in those inaugural moments?

The answer may be “no,” because the conditions are different; and it may not be related to resources or awareness issues, but rather to issues of control. In the previous literacy campaign, people received school supplies, books, a backpack and a smile. It was simple and controlled, like a movie script.

But this new technology has broken everything, so disruptive and irreverent. Expectations are there before the first class; and how not to fail? How to teach without speaking of packages, connections, networks, scope, content, emails, opinions, blogs, online jobs, sharing, etc.? However, not doing so evidences the failure. An illiterate man in this century is a failed man.

For both cultural and spiritual purposes, Internet access and mastery of its potential should be as high a priority as education and medicine are today. The full access to information and the ability to interact globally are today problems of human dignity.

It does not matter whether we can foresee a “no” for an answer. It is our duty to put in the hands of the Cuban institutions our willingness to bring a digital literacy campaign to our country, and to promote this national effort as necessary, as our consciousness demands.


Ecured – campaña de alfabetización

Cuba Promete internet para todos en el 2020

Machado’s Young People / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Machado Ventura

Somos+, 13 July 2105 — One of the most important qualities of a politician is credibility. I am one of those who believe that credibility must be earned — and must not be lost, because sometimes it cannot be recovered. The obligatory homage to “the caste” has been the tool used to obviate the need for credibility in Cuba, and processes have been created to redress its loss: “rectification of errors,” “update of the economic model,” and even “voting for everything.”

This is why it is not strange that the octogenarian Machado Ventura addressed us, the young people of Cuba, telling us what we should do, think or feel. Those who in the old days were dazzled by promises of faraway lands and indeed enjoyed (and still enjoy) privileges, today demand that we not be dazzled by pretty things — basically because many of these things might turn out to be good, and might sentence them to a forced retirement. And it is there that they leave us their legacy: Remember the confrontation! A war cry against the rapprochement, against the aim of those models that have encouraged it on both sides. continue reading

Finally, Machado Ventura justifies the lack of Internet access because of cost, despite us knowing that the current infrastructure is still not even at half its capacity. And he reveals to us the result of the negotiations with the American companies: do not give us free Internet, because we cannot control it. In its place, as a consolation prize, we will have “the prosperous and sustainable socialism that we are now contemplating.”

Confrontation, preservation of the status quo, adoption of technological ignorance, and off-line socialism: these are the young people that Machado wants.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Technology Rationed in a Technophobic Country / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

A Cuban ration book for basic foodstuffs

Somos+, 2 July 2015 — The coming of WiFi to Cuba is very good news. Better still is the reduction in prices from 4.25 CUC to 2.00 CUC, although that is still a very high barrier for connection to the Internet. [Roughly 2 days wages for one hour. -ed.] From here I want to congratulate the promoters, Cubans or otherwise, because it has been clearly and unquestionably a step that benefits the citizenry.

However, all the data indicates that there is excess capacity to go faster, and too much hesitancy to accept the help offered by companies in the United States and other countries. We clearly have a technophobic government that is trying to deal with a problem outside its scope and trying to “reinvent” the technology as a part of a useless and expensive process, redesigning and adapting; but more than anything, delaying its adoption in time. continue reading

The security of information and the lack of a technological culture continue to be the preferred pretexts to validate the slowness of a process that can’t wait any longer. Nothing is said about how to attack these supposed problems, which, by the way, exist all over the world and have a huge number of solutions. Increasing training in technology on a large scale is the only alternative, and for this there is only one method: “You learn to dance by dancing.”

We are in a process of technological literacy, why don’t we send thousands of literacy specialists to every corner of the island with laptops and connections, because we are standing in line for 21st century literacy?

Many of us question the secrecty of the technology strategy, the silence about the agreements… if there are any, and the news about companies wanting to help that only comes out in the foreign press. It is annoying that our technophones, who undertake these efforts on our behalf, supported by our effort, our GDP and our remittances, are not capable of explaining why in 2020 the number of those connected will be 50% and not 90%, or how and at what cost we are going to be connected.

If security is so critical, if the agreements are not suitable, if filling the country with antennas is too expensive, or if what Twitter, Google and the rest are offering is bad, we want to offer our opinions.

We voted to adopt technology, which exists and works, in a normal and above all very quick way. We voted en masse to liberalize access and to declare it a right. How did you vote?