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  • Writer's pictureNigel Rushman

Cubas big Internet excuse and it’s even bigger than that

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

Cuba is awash with disadvantage. At least it is if you ask Cubans and long term residents. 

They will tell you that they can’t do this or that and that you don’t understand because it just doesn’t work there.

They will tell you that the internet speeds are too slow that everything is ‘blocked’.

It is simply not true.

Sure, internet is ridiculously expensive in Cuba even by international standards and that is an issue that restricts access to the general public.

For business however, it is simply an excuse

Cuba is a land of diminishing challenges that are used as excuses. It’s like a comfort blanket of misinformation.

Cubans I find have a naturally cheery disposition, are well educated, charming, intelligent people. The one factor I do find very difficult is the excuse and blame culture. Sure, the USA is an aggressor against Cuba with a ridiculous embargo that hasn’t worked, will not work, should not work and is pushed by some bitter old fellas in the USA who should move on. But Cubans and long term residents of Cuba just don’t recognise the progress I see every time I visit, which is once a month.

Running businesses in Cuba and investing in and with Cuba is much harder than it need be. People in the main work at a very slow pace and for short hours and terribly inefficiently, the result of which is that they are often very ineffective.

Excuse No1 Everything is too hard — because they think it is. Excuse No2 That doesn’t work here — because they haven’t tried now Excuse No3 We can’t do that here — because they haven’t tried or asked

The list goes on.

Cuba is changing — no question. And it is changing fast.

In November last year it was announced that the iconic Malecon seafront would be given wifi hotspots. My Cuban friends and colleagues gave that knowing smile of disbelief and the shrug that says it never will. Well guess what? At the beginning of January it was turned on. I used it this last week. Many of the people I met in Havana didn’t even know. More and more restaurants have free wifi. Again my Cuban colleagues and local residents don’t know.

The reason is, that change has been so very long coming I think they assume that the snails pace continues. The frustrations of a broken and inflated bureaucracy grinds them almost to a stop. They don’t even search for and embrace change and improvement. With an assumptive and dismissive shrug of their shoulders they will tell you the Cuban mantra “Well this is Cuba”.

The leadership in Cuba is moving and changing. There is an acceptance amongst the senior people I have met that the world has changed and that Cuba needs to adapt. The people don’t seem to have caught that vibe themselves and seem to be locking themselves in a time warp.

Cuba has existed for a long time by the good grace of international benefactors. Venezuela, Russia, China, numerous countries have poured billions of dollars of aid or assistance into Cuba and rather than rely on earnings, the country has become aid dependent. A socialist idealistic endeavour reliant on aid. As Margaret Thatcher famously said “The trouble with Socialism is that eventually other people money runs out” and she was right, in Cubas case it has. There are no more big international Sugar Daddies for Cuba.

The leadership are aware of that and they are taking cautious steps to decentralise their economy and encourage international joint ventures and investment. Still slightly out of step with the real cut and thrust of free markets these are tending to favour government to government arrangements as governments tend to be less accountable for real returns on investments and under less pressure from shareholders and investors. They can afford a long term view.

Nevertheless progress is being made. Change is happening. The people don’t notice so much but as their President said “slowly but without pause” and in my view it is not as slow as many residents think.

It is rumoured that there will be mobile data this year. Let’s see if that happens as quickly as wifi on the Malecon. I haven’t found many things blocked for use on the internet, a common excuse in Cuba.

Only Skype really and that has been rubbish since Microsoft bought it, so that is a mercy for Cuba.

Cubans are amazingly inventive and resilient. They have to be to get by day to day. They need to shake off the belief that they are oppressed by everything and open their eyes and minds to the change around them.

No excuses.

Those that embrace the changes and take advantage of what is becoming newly available to them and shake off the shackles of historical assumptions are looking at a bright future and many can feel it.

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