My Nokia, Waiting for a Miracle

Alfredo Fernandez

Related to my master’s thesis, a friend gave me a mobile phone. He saw that my thesis addressed the issue of “unexpected uses” of the New Technologies of Information and Communications (NTICs), so he wanted to keep up with my research.

He saw it fit to give me one of these devices that many theorists now recognize as “digital meta-devices” because of the many services they can provide in addition to their original purpose: to communicate.

The problem is that in Cuba it’s practically an insult to give a cellphone to someone like me, whose monthly salary is 510 pesos ($22 USD), master’s studies included. So I spent several days wondering if my friend had really given me a “gift” or just another problem.

To make matters worse, the cell phone that my friend gave me was a Nokia that had to be unblocked, which costs 10 CUCs (about $11 USD) in a government workshop. But there you have to leave it overnight, while for 20 CUCs a self-employed worker will unblock it on the spot.

Added to this, the cost of activating a line now costs 30 CUCs ($33 USD). And on top of all that, it’s 5 or 10 CUCs more to buy a phone card, which you have to buy monthly, if not twice a month, otherwise you’ll lose your line if you go for more than two months without buying one of these cards.

With this information, it’s easy to appreciate my dilemma as to whether I should purchase the service and become a user of this New Technology of Information and Communications.

What’s amazing is that despite the high cost of cellphones in Cuba, there are now many more users of this service than those with conventional phones. On July 14, 2010, Maximo la Fuente, the vice president of the ETECSA mobile phone company, stated that there were just over one million cellphones connected and operating on the island.

I’ll end up doing something to get my phone connected, thereby adding myself to that growing group of people who with a thousand efforts communicate better than the rest, however briefly.

I’ll be able to discuss essential business or receive SMS messages from friends and distant relatives. I’ll even be able to pick up Twitter news items that the always-distracted official Cuban press somehow forgets.

I know, somehow I’ll set up my phone and I will convert “the problem” given to me by my friend into a great gift.