3G Mobile Networks Hit Cuba For the First Time

In a surprising turn of events, the island nation of Cuba has begun making 3G available to its citizens.
Mario L. Major

Although advancements in technology are proceeding at rate almost beyond our comprehension.

What is emerging as part of this narrative is the radically different ways in which technology is developed, shared and even researched based on the economic and political realities of the local country.

One example is China, with its controversial and ambitious research surrounding gene editing for babies, as well as the race to develop an artificial intelligence (AI) stronghold and rise to the ranks of number one in the area.

Ironically, this week as some of the main telecommunications stakeholders of the United States, South Korea, China, Japan, the UK and Australia met to put the wheels into motion for the first commercial targets involving 5G, thanks to the work of the team at Qualcomm.

For the first time, citizens of the country have 3G mobile access, a technology which came into being almost at the beginning of this century.

And of course, as telecom companies are well-known for their stipulations, this only applies to prepaid customers.

According to large and influential telecommunications service provider Etecsa, the service is available starting today, with invitations to join extending until Sunday.

The company provided step-by-step instructions explaining the transition.

A Costly Proposal

Though this change has symbolic as well as tangible value, for many residents, it will come at a steep price.

Even with incentives like the bonus 300MB added on, the packages, which will start at around the equivalent of 7 USD per month will still price them out of the range of possibilities for many in the country.

The average monthly salary in the country has climbed to about 35 USD per month. 

The Beginning of a New Era

Though Internet censorship in recent years has not remained much of an issue for the island nation, access was always a looming issue.

It was not until 2013 that the first Internet cafés began opening in the country, a move which many feels were the start of a general easing of pressure from the government on when and how its citizens accessed the net.

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In the past, there was a kind of word-of-mouth approach to tapping into this Wi-Fi: one person would get word of a free connection, and news would spread like wildfire, until within minutes the system, overwhelmed, began to slow down.

"This is very slow," one Havana resident shared with BBC in an interview in 2014, adding, "at least it's something".


What this week's events are perhaps showing us is that even technology, which is touted as a unifying and equalizing force in the world, can dissolve into an issue of the haves versus the have-nots.

Geographical borders and geopolitical realities, at least for the time being, will continue to have a major impact on how we think about emerging technology in our lives. 

The presence of enhanced technology assumes that there will be an equally important presence of enhanced income that will make access a minor issue.

In some countries like Cuba, therefore, closing the wage gap and closing the technology gap may represent the same challenge.

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