“Hey, I’m really sorry, but I need to send this email to my sister as soon as possible because my mother needs these medicines urgently.
“So-and So, I’m calling to see if you could please send this email to a friend whose birthday is today.”
“Mr. So-and-So, please, I need a huge favor from you. The problem is that I need someone to email these forms to the master’s degree program that I’m applying to.”
The above dialogues are about what I’ve come to call “indirect users,” a rare specimen as far as the use of email is concerned. So far I’ve only detected its habitat as being that of the largest island in the Caribbean: Cuba.
“Indirect users” are no more than those people without Internet access, or even email, who construct social networks based on friends who have access to the Web through their jobs or, in rare cases, those who are allowed to have email at home for a few hours a month. In this indirect way, people can communicate with family members, friends or find information on some specific topic.
“Indirect users” can even include those who are technologically illiterate or have never put their fingers on a computer keyboard, let alone “surfed the Internet.” Yet this doesn’t prevent them from knowing about and especially using the benefits of this new technology of information and communications.
Contrary to all the predictions, “indirect users” are by no means an endangered species; on the contrary, they’re a species “in extension,” because every day in Cuba there’s an increasing need for people with email.
With the long-awaited fiber optic cable connecting the island with Venezuela (and through it the rest of the world), it would seem that they’re trying to eliminate this breed, but that has yet to happen. Nonetheless, the Cuban government is showing itself distrustful in dealing with this “rare species” of e-mail customers, who always operate through third parties to use a few kilobytes.
I hope that such a species — that of the “indirect users,” who were born with death in tow — soon disappears, though our “Ecologist State” persists in conserving them as a new feature of the island, as it has done with the harmful but necessary tobacco and rum.