Thu Jun 26, 2008 6:30pm BST
By Marc Frank
HAVANA (Reuters) - Forget iPods, BlackBerries and other electronic
gadgets, most Cubans are still waiting for telephones and less than five
percent have a computer, the government reported on Thursday.
The National Statistics Office (http://www.one.cu) released 2007
telecommunications data showing there were 1.241 million telephone lines
in the country of 11.2 million inhabitants, of which 910,000 were
residential and the remainder in state hands.
Mobile phones numbered just 330,000.
There were 4.5 personal computers per 100 residents, but most of those
were in government offices, health facilities and schools.
The report was issued two months after Cuban President Raul Castro
legalized the sale of computers and cell phones, though their high cost
puts them out of reach of many.
Until the sales were permitted, Cubans mostly obtained computers on the
black market and cell phones through foreigners, who have used them in
Cuba since the 1990s.
The report said more than 10 percent of the population had access to
Internet, but access in most cases is to a Cuban government Intranet and
no data was available for access to the full Internet.
The number of telephone lines and computers has doubled since 2002,
according to the report, which did not show any cell phones in use then.
By comparison, Latin American neighbor Mexico, with a population of 108
million, has 20 million telephone lines and 50 million cell phone users,
according to industry statistics.
World Bank figures showed that in 2006, Mexico had 13.6 computers and
17.5 Internet users for every 100 people.
Cuban officials blame the longstanding U.S. embargo for the country's
last place status in the region in communications and point out they are
in first place in health and education.
The move to allow computer and cell phone sales was part of reforms by
Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel Castro as president in February,
aimed at easing economic hardship faced by Cubans.
(Editing by Jeff Franks and Frances Kerry)