Cuba: Technological Conditions and Banking

Cuba: Technological Conditions and Banking
Fecha de publicación: 
22 August 2023
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Since the beginning of the banking process in Cuba was announced, it has been tried to impose the opinion matrix that there are no technological conditions to assume such a challenge. It reminds me when they said that the Cuban government and Fidel were enemies of Internet.

I think that in some show misinformation, in others, manipulation and views without mediating a serious and deep investigation on the development of the access and use of ICT in our country.

The banking process implies the use of traditional means of payments, like check and transfer; also of channels and electronic means of payment; in addition, commercial relations that may exist between the different economic actors and digital payment instruments.

Once more, I turn to the Uruguayan writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano, who expressed that when it comes to Cuba, the main media, “use a huge magnifying glass that enhances everything that happens there, every time it suits the enemy’s interests, drawing attention to what happens in the revolution, while the magnifying glass is distracted and can’t see other important things.”

Among those important things that can’t be seen by that magnifying glass appears the leader of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, he founded in 1987 the program of the young computer and electronic clubs, which combines as none the technologies with knowledge and culture, in their 36 years of work they have prepared for free more than 5 million Cubans and provided important services to the community, health centers, schools, and other institutions.

They said Cuba was an enemy of Internet and already in 1992, when the Internet owners did not allow Cuba to connect to this network, the Infomed network was born as a project of the National Center for Information of Medical Sciences, for the sake of responding to the need to facilitate the exchange of information among professionals, academics, researchers, students and managers of the National Cuban Health System.

Since its emergence, it was developed under the concepts of a decentralized model of collective construction, the development of nodes in all provinces proves it, the creation of territorial domains, the development of sites and web pages at all levels, the steady incorporation of user and the wide production of content and services at a time when blogs, wikis and other ways that are summarized in the idea of web 2.0 still didn’t exist.

They tried to plant the idea that young people were excluded from access to ICTs, and yet in September 2002 the University of Computer Science (UCI), opened its doors to the first academic year with 2008 students from all municipalities from the country.

In 2001 as part of the Battle of Ideas program, the television room program was founded which allowed almost half a million Cubans to benefit from these facilities powered with photovoltaic cells, which was inserted within a broad and coherent system of communication, where community and interpersonal communication was present, becoming an essential element in the transformation and social construction of reality in those places.

We dared to create an online collaborative encyclopedia, Ecured, in 2010 when the country had a bandwidth for internet connection of 393 Mbps in and 209 Mbps out. This cultural, educational, and decolonizing platform is currently the most visited Cuban site on the Internet.

When the commander created the scientific pole in the west of Havana in the early 90s, I wonder, were all the conditions for it ready? Or recently when we developed the vaccines that saved thousands of Cubans and people from other countries from dying of the Covid-19 pandemic, did we have everything to pull it through?

A few days ago I was talking with Ricardo Serrano, director of Etecsa in Santiago de Cuba and told me that in the telecommunications network of that city it’s still in service 13 km of lead cable with more than 80 years of exploitation, which has not been replaced because the necessary financing has not been available; however, Santiago de Cuba advances in the processes of computerization and digital transformation.

In the huge magnifying glass mentioned before, the talent, intelligence and delivery of specialists and workers who have developed their own technologies with adequate cybersecurity are not seen and that with few resources maintain and expand the telecommunications infrastructure of the country.

All this, and much more was done without having the ideal infrastructure and technological conditions; But the essentials to initiate these processes, the same goes for today with the banking process.

I remember a first level official of the Ministry of Communications that in the first years of this century told me that there was more political will than technological conditions to advance. Life showed that these conditions were created, sometimes in parallel with the projects and programs that were executed.

There are indicators and figures recognized by international organizations, facts and achievements that attest Cuba's advances in the telecommunications and ICT sector in recent years. Recognition is no longer only in skills, but also in the use and access to technologies, without ignoring that there’s much to achieve in terms of lower rates, quality in services and access expansion.

83% of the places where Cubans live have mobile phone coverage, 50% with 4G coverage and 75%, 3G. For this, more than 5 thousand radio bases have been deployed throughout the country. Institutional connectivity has also grown as part of process computerization and digital transformation.

In the 2021-2022 period, the monthly Internet traffic increased by 3.2 times and 1.9 times international connectivity. From January-November 2022 Internet traffic in Cuba was as an average of 113,045 gigabits per second (GBPS) at reception and 16,914 Gbps in transmission.

Traffic on social media in 2022 in a measurement made in a 48-hour period reached the figure of 377 TERABYTE and 4.2 million subscribers. In 2021 at a similar moment the behavior was 4 TB with 3.6 million subscribers.

In videos and photos in that same period, it registered 217 TB with 3.9 million users against 14 TB and 3.6 million consumers at the same time of the year 2021.

In instant messaging there was also an increase of 135 TB in relation to the previous year. In the same way, a substantial increase in the number of people accessing games, as well as in the consumption of films and other audiovisual materials through Netflix.

By the end of last year Facebook had 4.1 million subscribers (+ 600 thousand); YouTube 3.9 million (+600 thousand); Whatpp 3.9 million (+300 thousand), Telegram 3.7 million (+300 thousand) and Twitter 3.7 million (+1.4 million).

Cuba developed two national apps for electronic payment, Transfermóvil and EnZona, a result achieved by very few countries. These are integrated with any electronic platform that offers products and services of organizations and entities and with banks, which in the last year have made investments to expand their technological competences and guarantee a high availability of their equipment and technologies.

These platforms use advanced technological infrastructure, modern development languages and all their software and hardware are systematically updated so that they have more power and availability. The necessary cybersecurity measures have also been applied and incidents that affect their operation are not reported so far.

In the case of Transfermóvil it has 4.3 million active customers; in the first half of this year 444 million operations were carried out and it’s estimated that at the end of the year one billion operations are reached; user experience reach 4.78., the payment of services in recent years has grown on this platform. At present, 87.8% of telephony, 40.05% of electricity, 60% of taxes, 25.6 of gas and 8.35 of water is paid.

Now they have no choice but to recognize that there is access to the Internet; but the attacks now aim at other objectives. The achievements in recent years in Internet access have shattered the stereotype that they have fabricated, now they cannot argue that there’s no access to the network and now they look for other excuses to criticize: that there are no conditions to ensure certain processes. They don’t know or at least silence the damage the blockade causes to this sector that in the last 10 years amounts to a total of more than 500 million dollars.

Despite the bad omens of some and the nasty campaigns of others, the technological conditions that guarantee the banking process in Cuba will continue to improve.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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