It’s interesting to read between the lines of a report by Associated Press reporter Michael Braun. He is in Cuba, he says, and he found that both Google and Yahoo apparently had blocked access to some Internet service providers in Cuba. Apparently the blockage came as a result of the upcoming changes in the Cuban government’s web censorship policy. This may well be part of the reason that Google, which has itself caved in to the Chinese government’s censorship demands on the Internet, has chosen to remove its web portal from Cuba altogether.
In an article by AP reporter Alan Diaz Poza, he wrote that Internet users in Cuba cannot use mobile cell phones or e-mail accounts based on their location. Of course, it is easy enough to map out an Internet connection via GPS or other means in any country. So this is another problem with “unified communication”. Apparently the Cubans aren’t too fond of the fact that their messages can be blocked by outside sources.
This brings us to the relationship between us and Cuba. One might have expected that this relationship, which was built on trade, would be ideally buoyed by commerce. Indeed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has just completed a massive commercial expansion in Cuba, and there are talks of more. But it seems to me that the two countries don’t really see eye to eye on this issue. As a matter of fact, I’ve often wondered why Americans never seem to ask the Castro government (the one with the guns) how it censors the Internet.
And then there is this: Earlier this year the European Union and United States passed laws that will block the Internet in Cuba. This comes as no surprise given the fact that both the EU and US routinely block websites in other countries which they consider to be unacceptable. As the EU sees it, Cuba is just a bigger problem. If they take this approach they will be cutting off communications and increasing commerce with the Castro government. In short, cutting off the nose to spite the face.
In order to understand the relationship between us and Cuba, it’s necessary to look beyond the surface. The obvious question to ask is why does Cuba block the Internet? There are several possible answers to that question, but the most likely one is because the Castro government doesn’t want its citizens to have access to the Internet. Although Cuba is a poor country by Western standards, there are many rural areas where communication can still be a major challenge.
There are those who argue that Cuba is simply a poor island. While it may be true that almost all aspects of life are lacking, it is also true that technology is playing an increasingly important role in modern society. In fact, the Castro government released a very well-produced commercial highlighting the importance of the Internet to the Cuban people. In a time when so much attention is focused on free speech, and the Internet as a tool to spread free thought, this is a very important step forward in the fight for Internet freedom.
However, Cuba continues to block the Internet, and there are other nations that follow their example. China is another nation that blocks Internet use. This is a little different, as there may not actually be computers or telephones in every house in China, but the basic infrastructure is in place. Similarly, Iran has a variety of problems with their own Internet, which has limited communications inside of the country, but is also limited to the outside world.
As I travel around the world, I am often dismayed at the lack of Internet access. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who are using the Internet, but at what cost. Just like the Castro government, in the past Cuba has used technology to serve its purpose, but it has been a negative impact on society. By removing Internet access, they have given a voice to those who are trying to express themselves, and that is definitely positive. Therefore, I would encourage all human civilizations to embrace this type of technology, because it does help us grow, communicate, and work better as a species.