IT Problems, Opportunities Await a Free CubaBy Chris Gonsalves | Posted 2008-02-21 Email Print
For businesses looking at the retirement of Fidel Castro as
a telltale sign of
Dr. Jose Azel, senior research associate at the Institute
for Cuban and Cuban American studies at the
“There is no modern infrastructure to support business the way we think of it in terms of technology, power, telecommunications, etc.,” Azel says. “There is very limited Internet access and only the government has that. The people, by and large, have no dependable access to the Internet, though some find ways.”
While this presents a problem for major corporations looking to set up shop in Cuba, it also spells opportunity for IT vendors, integrators and solution providers who can fulfill the IT needs of an island many people has pent up entrepreneurial and innovative demand.
In 1994, the Cuban government, in a rare move, started
issuing licenses for private “paletes,” small privately owned restaurants and
cafeterias. Almost overnight,
Porches were stuffed with chairs and tables and young Cubans got their first real taste of native delicacies such as mamey sapote shakes and guava pie.
It was proof, Cubans say, that communism never completely stifled
the entrepreneurial energy on the island. The enthusiasm and spirit so evident
in Cuban-run businesses in
“A stroll of my native
While most Cuban expatriates greeted the retirement of 81-year-old Cuban strongman Castro this week as a victory for openness and basic human rights, many also wondered what a softening of Cuba’s hard-line communism—and warmer relations with the West—might do for business there.
“All of those energies to produce are just waiting, crouching, for the restrictions to loosen --even one millimeter--to conquer again our streets and porches,” Sanchez insists.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, Cuba
has the lowest rate of Internet usage in
Azel says that before
“They have to know who are they going to partner with,” Azel says. “Under Castro--either Fidel or Raul--you partner with the state, period. You don’t get to choose your employees. The state picks your employees. You pay the state and they pass on 10 or 15 percent of that to the workers.”
He also says companies interested in investing in
“Technology is going to be incredibly important, ultimately,
“But I must reiterate, I don’t see this happening very soon,” he says. “We have a long, difficult way to go.”
Sanchez is equally guarded in her optimism.
“Maybe things will change now,” she wrote after Fidel Castro stepped down. “For me and the young generation, this news comes as a great relief. We've never had another president, and we saw him as an obstruction to our country's development.
“But honestly, the question of a new head of state is not people's greatest concern right now. We're too preoccupied with the problems of daily life,” she says. “Fidel's brother has made plenty of speeches about much-needed reforms for the country, but nothing's really changed. Raul's only made cosmetic changes which don't help the population at all.”