Miami conference to tackle internet freedom in Cuba
MARIO J. PENTÓN
Next month, Miami will host the first of what organizers hope will
become an annual conference on freedom in the digital era in Cuba.
Titled Cuba Internet Freedom and organized by the Office of Cuba
Broadcasting (OCB), the Sept. 12-13 event aims to bring together
independent journalists from the island with digital innovators and
personalities who want to open up the country to the digital world
The purpose of the conference is to exchange ideas, explore best
practices, examine the current state of internet use on the island and
find ways to support its growth.
"We looked, first, at providing the basics on the use of the internet in
Cuba, and also present 'offline' internet services developed by people
within the island: applications, information networks, among other
things," said Maria (Malule) González, director of the OCB.
More than 20 experts — from developers to policy makers — will take part
in the two-day Cuba Internet Freedom conference to share their knowledge
and experience on the use of the internet in Cuba. The event is part of
Social Media Week, which will be held at Miami Ad School in the Wynwood
Arts District through Sept. 16.
The event also will feature workshops on universal access to the
internet as a human right, and exchanges on what is happening on social
media platforms in Cuba. The dissident movement and activism in the
digital age also will be discussed, as well as how media outlets cover
Cuba from outside the island.
Among the speakers traveling from Cuba are Eliecer Avila, a computer
science engineer and president of the opposition group Movimiento
Somos+; Ernesto Oliva Torres, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU),
who serves as the audio-visual editor for videos produced by the group
and published on YouTube; and Miriam Celaya, a freelance journalist.
For Celaya, the gathering in Miami will provide an opportunity to
illustrate that independent journalism in Cuba has its own voice.
"We are going through a process of maturity," Celaya said. "Independent
journalism in Cuba was not born yesterday, but rather is the result of
an evolution. At this time, the conditions are present to allow it to
get to the next level."
Cuba has one of the lowest internet connectivity rates in the world.
According to official sources, about 30 percent of the Cuban population
obtains access through WiFi hotspots that the government has installed
at parks and other public spaces in some cities. Only two provinces —
Havana and Pinar del Río — have WiFi available in all its
municipalities, but the cost of $2 per hour to obtain access remains
high in a country where the average monthly salary is about $26.
The OCB is funded by the U.S. government with a mission to break down
the government's monopoly on information in Cuba. For more than 30
years, Radio Martí has been leading that effort, which was later joined
by a television signal.
Collectively known on the island as Los Martí, the radio and TV
broadcasts have long been a source of friction between the Cuban
government, which consistently blocks the signals and wants an end to
the broadcasts, and the U.S., which continues to fund them.
"One of the pillars of Los Martí is the pursuit of internet freedom in
countries where this right is censored, as is the case of Cuba,"
González said, adding that the media outlet is now focused on enhancing
its digital portal.
"Our first means of distribution is Radio Martí, but increasingly,
shortwave works less in Cuba." she said. "The digital world is gaining
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IF YOU GO
What: Cuba Internet Freedom to be held during Social Media Week.
When: Sept. 12-16
Where: Miami Ad School, 571 NW 28 St., in the Wynwood Arts District.
Info: For tickets and information on Social Media Week, visit
socialmediaweek.org. To register for the Cuba Internet Freedom
conference, visit eventbrite.com.
Source: Miami to host social media and internet freedom in Cuba
conference | In Cuba Today -