The Youth Computer Club in Matanzas, Cuba, Doesn’t Even Have Internet

“There are no parts or budget for the computers, the equipment is broken or obsolete,” explains an inspector

Another problem of the Youth Club is that, in addition to the lack of customers, no one wants to work on the computers / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Julio César Contreras, Matanzas, June 15, 2024 — In the city of Matanzas there are three Youth Computer and Electronics Clubs that, although they seem few for such a large population, are actually superfluous due to their lack of customers. The offices, where young people used to go to play online or to access computers that they did not have at home, have become empty spaces that depend on someone leasing them to survive.

The first Youth Club on the Island was inaugurated in 1987 by Fidel Castro, when money from the Soviet Union was still flowing. Since then, and with the successive crises of the country, what began as a computerization project ended up being a hall to access games such as Dota, Age of Empires or Call of Duty – to mention the most popular. Then it was transformed into a point of sale for phone recharge cards, and now its workers limit themselves to updating antivirus products for a few customers.

“The other day I arrived at Joven Club III, which is on the road of El Naranjal. The only technician there had been talking to two people. I asked him to show me the registration of clients who, at the end of the month, did not total even fifty visits,” Alejandro, a specialist of the Provincial Directorate of the Youth Club and in charge of inspecting them regularly, tells this newspaper.

The technological obsolescence of these premises frightens the customers / 14ymedio

Another problem of the Youth Club is that, in addition to the lack of customers, no one wants to work on the computers. Almost always the technicians are young boys who use the position as a springboard for other better-paid jobs. “It is true that they do not have good opportunities to develop professionally. So, as is logical, they go to some private company or better-paid state position,” says Alejando, 36, from Matanzas. As a young man and a graduate of the University of Computer Science (UCI), Alejandro says he understands his colleagues when they leave the staff. “If you have at least a little interest in what you do, being in a place that still uses computers from a decade ago and a tape printer kills your desire,” he reflects.

Alejandro explains that technology has advanced rapidly, “but what has not evolved is the institutional conception of what these places should be. Most people have at least one modern cell phone with which they can do almost everything, including access to artificial intelligence. Here, however, they don’t even allow internet access. The supposed online games we offer have to be played here, with the internal network of computers, when young people in the whole world can use their phones for that,” he adds.

In addition, continues the inspector, “there are no parts or budget for computers. Much of our equipment is broken or obsolete, and there is no money even to give a coat of paint to the facade. In those conditions it is very difficult to maintain the operation of the facilities in the province. Some have even had to change their corporate purpose or remain closed while waiting for a solution, which could be a definitive closure.”

This is the case of the Joven Club II, which has had to rent an area of the premises to a private business that repairs cell phones and other electronic devices. Many of these workshops perform functions (installing antivirus, downloading programs or installing applications) that make them direct competitors of the state center, but unlike the workshops, the state centers don’t attract customers.

Joven Club II rented an area of the premises to a private business that is dedicated to repairing cell phones / 14ymedio

“It’s curious, if not worrying, that their computers are more advanced than ours. People arrive asking directly about the workshop, and I would not be surprised if in the future it will expand to the entire place,” says Alejandro. “It’s a shame to say, but the computer scientist who is at the door (of the Youth Club) spends more time explaining how to get to the cell phone workshop than doing his real job. If someone comes specifically to the Youth Club, the answer is almost always one of these three: We don’t have it. It’s broken. That service is not provided here,” he adds. Joven Club I, close to René Fraga Park, is the only one to which some elderly people go sporadically. “They are people who, since they do not master some technical aspects well, seek advice to update programs, install applications on their phones or obtain some specific information.”

Seen from the outside, the network of Joven Club de la Isla does not seem to be in such a precarious state. If you access its website, there are an infinity of community services and projects for students, the elderly and people with disabilities that are theoretically developed successfully. In practice, however, “they are only taking up space.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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