From 6th December, Cuban citizens will have full access to the internet from their mobile devices as the country moves towards digital connectivity.
After spending decades off the grid, Cuba is ready to step into the digital world. Previously Cuban citizens only had access to government run email accounts on their phones. Use of 3G internet was restricted to the country’s officials, tourist and foreign businessmen; making Cuba the country with one of the lowest connectivity rates in the world and one of the last ones to not have mobile internet.
All internet service in the island nation was previously controlled by the state-owned telecom company ETSECA and primarily provided through crowded, government-approved Wi-Fi hotspots around the country. Paid Wi-Fi hotspots are scattered through major cities. They are instantly recognizable by the crowds of young Cubans gathered with their eyes glued to an assortment of smart-phones, laptops, and tablets.
The Cuban government has long been eyeing the digital world and was well aware of being excluded from the benefits of it. To overcome this, in 2014, the government opened approximately 237 paid public Wi-Fi hotspots, according to Reuters, which cost $2 per hour to use. This is drastically short for a country of 11.2 million people.
Not only that, but using specific spots also excluded geographically-difficult-to-reach places from being connected to the internet. But all this is to be overcome by allowing citizens to access the internet by their personal devices.
Nearly half of the Cuban population has cell phones, but this doesn’t mean all of them will be able to access the internet. One of the barriers still existing for the Cuban population is financial affordability; with a standard monthly wage at $30 per month, it would be difficult for a lot of people to afford the new internet services that are estimated to cost nearly $7.