Information Science Fair 2011 on the Island of the Disconnected / Yoani Sánchez

Currently on display at Pabexpo, the exhibition center located in the wealthiest part of the city, are computer-related products created within and outside our country. Guests from all over are brought together there, including a large group of foreigners whom I imagine are more interested in taking a trip on our Paleolithic technology than doing business with local firms. The Kaspersky Group, for example, is showing a version of its well-known anti-virus program, developed in conjunction with the national company Segurmática. Everything has been made to look like an exhibition of this type anywhere in the world, were it not for one detail: This is the Island of the Disconnected.

Already well into the year 2011, inhabitants of the “Cuban archipelago” cannot buy a bus, train or airline ticket on the web, we don’t know the sensation of managing our bank accounts online, and purchasing a product through the computer screen is something we have seen only in foreign films. Still, today, my compatriots have never handled bureaucratic paperwork via email, not even the simplest of requests for one’s own birth certificate. Don’t even talk about reserving some vacation on the flashy webpages of the travel agencies Cubatur or Islazul. Among my hundreds of friends, none have managed–from here–to recharge their own mobile phones on those portals that offer the service, without having to stand in the long lines at the ETECSA office. We are a people who have no opportunity to pay our bills through cyberspace and who live as software pirates faced with the impossibility of purchasing licensed versions.

Here we live at a stage that is more characteristic of the first half of the twentieth century than it is of the twenty-first. Thus, the Computer Science Fair appears as a glimpse into the future, a shop window that displays to others what we haven’t even tasted. After the visitors return home, they will praise the skill sets of the Cuban computer scientists and remember the tasty Mojito they were given at the farewell party. Meanwhile, we remain in the twilight of the disconnected, turning on autistic computers unable to connect to others. We dream–it’s true–of one day filling out a form on the Internet where a phrase will confirm for us: “Thank you for your purchase, your ticket to Guantanamo has been reserved. Have a nice trip!”