“Conoce Cuba,” An App Focused On The Private Sector / 14ymedio, Zunilda Marta

Meet Cuba can be used without internet connection.
Meet Cuba can be used without internet connection.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 31 August 2016 – The daughter of necessity and ingenuity, the application Conoce Cuba (Meet Cuba) has been gaining ground on Android phones throughout the island. With an intuitive design, well made and functional, it stands out among other tools that also seek to provide information about private services and places to eat or be entertained.

Conoce Cuba is distributed free in the weekly packet. Its developers, the young engineers Eliecer Cabrera and Pablo Casas Rodríguez Yordi, come from Camagüey and two years ago wrote the tool’s first lines of program code. Today, it is the work of their lives of which they feel most proud.

The two young men have designed versions with similar characteristics for other provinces, but the capital city is where they have the most complete inventory of restaurants, scenic places, clubs, cafes and homes for rent. “In the future we want to offer new services,” says Cabrera Casas, but they prefer to move forward in careful steps and consolidate what has been achieved.

The tool can be used without an internet connection, a trait shared by many of the apps created on the island. Some of them were demonstrated and exchanged during the first meeting of the Cuban Android Community, which was held last Saturday at the studio of the artist Alexis Leyva (Kcho), under the slogan “For a technological culture available to all.”

The creation of these two camagüeyanos is “useful for visitors to the island,” they explain and they say they have focused “on the private sector from the beginning.” The app only provides “information on places that offer different services, but doesn’t include prices or ratings, so users have the freedom to choose,” says one of the creators.

The long-held dream of the student was taking shape in Cabrera Casas’ mind and when he graduated he made the decision. “If it doesn’t exist, we’re going to do it,” and he turned his hand to the work with an obsession that knows no bounds.

Totally free, the developers are careful not to include any license or restriction that would impede the massive use of Conoce Cuba.

To distribute it, they based their strategy on visiting cellphone repairers and developed an advantageous collaboration with their owners. At first, they walked around the city knocking on doors of the self-employed to offer their product.

The proprietor of the Ultracell workshop in Havana was one of the many who learned of the existence of Conoce Cuba on the street. After offering the tool as a part of the installation package he loads on the phones that come his way, he believes it has increased his numbers of clients and their satisfaction.

Currently the two engineers have also developed a way for business owners to contact them via email so they can request changes and updates in the tab associated with their business.

They acknowledge, however, they have had to overcome many obstacles to pursue their dream. Technological limitations hinder any work of this kind, but above all they are held back by the restricted internet access afflicting the country.

Cuba is one of the nations with the lowest rate of connectivity in the world, with only 5% of the population on-line, a percentage that is reduced to 1% in the case of broadband.

During the first months of work, the young engineers relied on the internet rooms operated by the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA), or on friends who copied for them “some tools” they didn’t have, said Cabrera Casas.

Today, competitors abound, such as the app Isladentro (Island Within) one of the most popular in Cuba. This tool also offers a guide for travelers, is available for free, and in addition it not only shows private services, but also state services and is organized by province.

“That people can find a great deal of information no further away than their pocket” was the objective guiding the two engineers who created Conoce Cuba, and so far they seem to have succeeded.