National workshop promotes digitisation and ‘technological sovereignty’

Cuba has held a first National Workshop on the digitisation of the services provided by central government and other state and national bodies. At the meeting, Maimir Mesa, the Minister of Communications, told participants that that the event was an expression of the will of the Cuban government to move forward rapidly in this area.

The event marks a further step in the drive that has been underway to rapidly computerise Cuban society in an effort to increase efficiency and productivity. The process envisages the development of a wide range of uniquely Cuban software tools, media platforms and products, intended to defend the country’s sovereignty (see Cuba Briefing 26 February 2018, and 25 October 2017).

Speaking at the event, Wilfredo González, the Vice Minister of Communications, said that it would now be up to each body to implement the policy and to strengthen local digitisation initiatives while ensuring citizen participation.

In doing so he confirmed that a distinctive element of Government’s approach would be a focus on ‘national IT solutions’ to make Cuba stand out as a country ‘with legitimate digital content and services’ that it has developed itself. “Cuba has the conditions to seek these solutions based on the concept of security and national sovereignty,” he said.

Much of the meeting reportedly considered the detail of the delivery of services, including ETECSA’s development of relevant infrastructure, the need for more rapid implementation of e-commerce and e-government platforms, the introduction of electronic payments systems, and other previously reported initiatives.

However, the state media made clear that the discussions also centred on Cuba’s intention to develop its own software and systems in ways that will to some extent free it from being over influenced by existing western IT architecture.

Separate reports from the workshop indicated that two Cuban products, Apklis and ToDus, have been developed which are intended to ‘promote technological sovereignty’. The first, Granma reported, is a ‘simple and secure app’ that allows the download of Android apps whether they are developed in Cuba or not. Available at www.apklis.cu, the user will be able to search by categories, download and, in the case of being a developer, will receive support to become an app provider.

ToDus, the report said, aims to become ‘the Cuban instant and collaborative messaging platform for communications between friends’. The new free service connects the user through ETECSA to send messages, images, voice notes and other communications in real time. The app can be downloaded from Apklis i or at www.todus.cu. Cuban reports say it is designed to offer good access, speed and security.

Meanwhile, meetings have been taking place around the country at a provincial level. Sponsored by the Information Technology Union of Cuba they have principally been aimed at overcoming lethargy in the implementation of e-government initiatives.

One such recent meeting in Mayabeque province heard that the development of e-government  solutions there had been ‘slow and insufficient; without the priority, integrality, support and security required’. Participants were reportedly told that the human capital, ‘especially universities and research centres’ was not being adequately exploited. Those leading the discussions compared the province’s failings to the success in Pinar del Río, Granma, Isla de la Juventud, and Matanzas.

Granma, Juventud Rebelde and other leading state publications have since President Diaz-Canel took office been reporting on a near to daily basis on such developments. Cuba also accepts that there is a role for self-employed individuals to develop commercially their own apps and services as it digitises.

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