Cuba’s Digital Revolution
CARTAS DESDE CUBA Por: Fernando Ravsberg, Marzo 2, 2017 Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz
I’ve been watching a series from the “Weekly Package” these days, and I found an episode of Black List that was dramatized in Cuba. It’s a very US depiction of Cuba, with Colombian-style violence, corrupt police Mexican style and Haitian poverty.
I thought about the irony there is in keeping an expensive censorship apparatus up and running, which is obsessed with monitoring TV, movies, theater and music videos recorded in Cuba, while series like this one manage to find their way into Cuban homes, which adults, teenagers and children all share.
The battle to control Cuban cultural, news and recreational shows has already been lost. Those who were committed to this comfortable task for decades should take up other professions which have a better outlook in the future.
According to a report reviewed at the Cuban legislature, 60% of university students already read digital documents and over half of them don’t go to libraries. The vice-president of the Cuban Book Institute, Edel Morales, calculates that 90% of young people in Cuba will be reading off of screens by 2020.
I connect up to the Internet and on the Cuban trade website “Porlalivre”, I find ads which offer “Selling all kinds of digital books – Be the one to read the best!!! – Learn about the new and best authors of today, don’t just read the ones you already know about.”
However, ideological officials play dumb, they continue to monitor and place restrictions. Foreign diplomats tell me that they still walk past stands at book fairs banning copies, even those written in other languages.
Cuba is experiencing a technological revolution with new phenomena which make old solutions outdated. Surely, when Pope John Paul II asked Cuba to open itself up to the world and the world likewise to Cuba, he didn’t imagine that this process would play out in cyberspace.
New communication technologies are putting every book, newspaper and recreational show at the Cuban people’s fingertips and nobody can stop them. They can only trust that five decades of educational and cultural progress wasn’t in vain.
Banning became impossible when the government authorized the Cuban people to use mobile phones, allowed them to access the Internet, created Wi-Fi spots across the country, legalized the “Weekly Package” and it let go of its bitterness for parabolic antenna (to capture US television). And the government did this knowing quite well what exactly they were doing.
Now, they can only take a chance and create mechanisms which allow Cuban citizens to use everything they have learnt to analyze the world in a critical way, so that they don’t consume ideas without chewing, so they don’t become passive consumers.
Cuban children should be taught to think and not to repeat what they’re told, starting in primary school. Let universities be a source where people are worth more for their own observations than the ones they learn, just like Jose de la Luz y Caballero taught.
The government could opt for making TV more educational, which doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be boring. A TV where film or literary critique shows are put on again, where there aren’t any taboo subjects and the only thing that is banned is censorship and superficiality.
The problem – or maybe I should say the advantage? – is that it’s impossible to develop a critical spirit within the Cuban people and restrict it to only seeing what comes from outside. Inevitably, this in-depth look would also help us to analyze what is going on within the country.
Then, neighborhood representative meetings would become real assemblies for public debate. And there would be different opinions about all subjects dealt with in parliamentary sessions, knowing that the unity of a nation is threaded together with the strings of diversity.
The hands on the clock continue to move forward relentlessly and censorship is becoming less and less efficient as each day passes. With a simple VPN or Proxy service, you can pierce through the hardest of firewalls a thousand times, without anybody being able to cover up so many holes at the same time.
It’s useless to try and contain a river of information which is flowing on the internet by building dams. The country would come out on top if these resources were instead used to teach Cubans how to surf the web, giving them the tools they need to navigate through even the greatest of lies.
Translation: Havana Times