One of Its Inventors Describes the Cuban App ‘Ticket’ As ‘The Monster I Helped Create’


The application “still has many flaws that have not been resolved, and the Cadeca (currency exchange) workers know this but don’t care.” (Cuba 360)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Havana, 11 May 2023 – The App ’Ticket’, launched in Cuba in December 2022 to facilitate the electronic processing of appointments in both public institutions and private businesses, increasingly displeases customers and even one of its creators, Jesús Daniel Saura Díaz.

A few days ago, the latter expressed one of the harshest criticisms, describing the tool, developed by the state-owned Xetid (Information Technology Company for Defense), as “the monster I helped create.”

The young man confesses that today he no longer feels “the same level of satisfaction and pride” that he had when he helped create the tool. In a post on social networks, he explains that the platform “was conceived as a fresh and innovative tool that contributed to society and that fulfilled the motto ’It has never been so easy’,” with the aim of allowing entry anywhere, whether it was a restaurant, a play, a paperwork office or a business. However, this became distorted.

“It was not created in order to become the new digital ration book, nor to distribute resources or sell combos of food items, much less to sell dollars or fuel, who would think that?” lashes out the computer scientist, who continues: “Many will say that it was adapting to the situation of the country, but I say that if we always adapt to the situation we’re never going to get out of the situation because we’re not going to have the tools to get us out.”

In his opinion, the app poorly serves “the Cuban living in poverty and scarcity who also never escapes politicization.”

One of the examples he gives is that Ticket “should be free for the end user and only charge providers for the service, infrastructure and maintenance,” something that does not happen today. In fact, the most requested services are sold.

This is the case with Aurelio, a young man from Sancti Spíritus, who paid 50 pesos [$2] for a three-month license to be in the “virtual store” managed by the application. This allows him to get much cheaper products, like a can of cooking oil at 50 pesos[$2], water at 12 pesos [$.50], a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of detergent at 230 pesos [$9.58], “prices from before,” in his words — unimaginable in the informal market, where inflation prevails – -and without having to spend the night in front of the state warehouses, waiting in line for them to put the supplies out on the shelves.

“For me it is quite useful and has solved certain problems and obstacles” the young man concedes. “I have many things to do; I don’t have time to be watching the virtual stores, when the supplies come out. The application has a functionality that puts you in line, and the day they give you to buy in the virtual store is your day, and you can buy without any problem.”

The average waiting time for that is more than a month. Aurelio also uses it for the purchase of a cylinder of liquefied gas — “it helps a lot, you don’t have to spend weeks and weeks in line” — and for the Cadeca (currency exchange), something that is, he says, “a good business”: “You go, you buy the euros at 120 pesos and sell them outside at 180, and you earn 5,000 or 6,000 pesos, depending on how the currency is doing.”

All in all, he also has criticism: “As an application it is poorly designed. All services are scattered, one under the other, scrambled, hundreds of services. It supposedly has a search engine but it doesn’t search anything.”

Another problem is that once Ticket gives you a turn and you enter the Waiting Room, it only notifies you with a bell icon, and only if you access the app. “If you were busy that day and didn’t look at the application, it’s easy to lose your turn because it doesn’t let you know if you don’t sign in,” he says.

Ricardo, a 76-year-old Havana retiree, believes that despite Ticket, the same corruption and “sociolismo” [’friendship-ism’*] that the tool sought to eradicate still proliferates. “I went to a notary’s office in El Vedado to do a procedure and they told me that they are only attending to customers who have logged a turn through that application. But it was obvious that there were people coming in before others, which they did by “making a payment directly to the guard,” he narrates.

And he continues his complaint: “If you can’t verify that the one who lined up since the early hours of the morning is the one who is going to enter the notary’s office, and anyone can appear saying that he got a turn on the Ticket app, how can you verify that it is true? The rest of the people who arrive can’t know if it’s true or a trick to get in after you pay the employees.”

Not even the Cuban News Agency (ACN), in a note that aimed to extol the virtues of the app, hid its drawbacks. “Although customers recognize the value of Ticket for the purchase of MLC [freely convertible currency], many on social networks question the  transparency of the virtual process and the time it takes to get the long-awaited Ticket for a turn at the Cadeca (curency exchange).

The article highlighted that on the Island there were 40 Cadeca branches that organized turns through the application, which manage an average of 764 daily requests but also collect “non-conformities.” Specifically, there are “statements on social networks” that report “failures to access the platform or edit user data, criticize the lack of response to their concerns, and some have even complained about not having received the notice to buy and then were automatically left out of the line.”

The waiting time to carry out the operation, the note says, “varies depending on the number of people in the Waiting Room [the area  where the turn is recorded] and the availability of currency to carry out the transaction.” Thus, in the Santa Clara Cadeca, which has the largest number of registered customers, the average waiting time between one exchange and another is 273 days, while in the one in San Antonio de los Baños it is 74 days.

In Tribuna de La Habana, where the note was reprinted, users’ comments were mostly negative. “I have a friend who doesn’t have a cell phone. So, who gets his turn?” asked Jorge Luis. “They must speed up sales; waiting up to four months or more is too long,” Rey Mo wrote.

For Ibis Araujo, the application “still has many flaws that have not been resolved, and the Cadeca workers know this but don’t care. I think that there should be protection for the customer, who, after several months of waiting, loses his turn due to difficulties with the application.” Vladimir González Pupo complains that “before it was free, supposedly to help, and now you have to pay to be on hold. I think it’s disrespectful.”

Days later, a report in Invasor took stock of the implementation of the tool in Ciego de Ávila and highlighted “the convoluted lines,” which don’t work. “We cannot tell the story with a tone of total satisfaction, because the reality is, if we’re talking about computerization and integration between institutions, everything still does not come out like it’s requested,” reads the provincial newspaper.

The article lists how the jumble of services managed by Ticket began to expand, for example to notarial appointments or the sale of liquefied gas at Cupet points of sale.

It also criticizes the “weak point” of payment, through EnZona, with three possible subscription plans: 12 pesos for 14 days, 20 for 28 days or 50 for three months [24 pesos = $1]. “The mere fact of having a single payment option is, clearly, a limitation that should be well evaluated in the face of future transformations,” says Invasor.

Although the official report praises Ticket’s work in ending the lines, it does not mention the application it replaced, Portero [Doorman] one of the tools of the so-called “struggle against the coleros,” [people paid by others to stand in line for them] launched in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. This app was used to record what day a customer accessed a store and, thus, if he behaved like a reseller. However, neither Portero nor Ticket have been effective so far in avoiding the diversion of merchandise [i.e. theft by employees] in various state stores.

*Translator’s note: Source Wiki:  “Sociolismo” (“partner-ism”), also known as “amiguismo” (“friend-ism”), is the informal term used in Cuba to describe the reciprocal exchange of favors by individuals, usually relating to circumventing bureaucratic restrictions or obtaining hard-to-find goods. 

Translated by Regina Anavy


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