Today’s Washington Post profiles one of Cuba’s budding technology entrepreneurs, a 31-year-old web designer with the requisite garage but no internet connection. To finish the job for his (presumably) handful of clients, one of the five employees at Ingenius needs to load his work onto a thumb drive, trudge down to a state-run internet cafe, and wait for a painfully slow connection to the network the rest of the world takes for granted.


The anecdotes about Cuba’s disconnected states are painful to hear. Many Cubans’ only access to the web is via dial-up modems. Download speeds are 4K to 5K a second, a mere drop compared to the megabytes-per-second torrent available elsewhere. An interpreter specializing in medical translations has to turn down work because she can’t deal with the large files clients need to send here. A simple PDF file can take an hour and a half to receive, and email accounts are limited to 10MB of data transfer each — enough to receive only about three high-resolution .jpgs.

The Cuban government likes to blame this all on the embargo — and restrictions that prevent players like Google from giving developers access to online tools may play a role — but the main reason for Cuba’s sorry state is the Communists’ ideological ambivalence toward free enterprise and their fear of losing control. An Arab Spring-style uprising, egged on by social networks and a connected citizenry, is a very real fear.

Larry Press, a professor at California State University at Dominguez Hills and author of the Internet in Cuba blog, likens Cuba to India a few decades ago. — a lot of smart, highly trained and entrepreneurial engineers held back by atrocious infrastructure.

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