Isbel Díaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES – Computer and electronics clubs (Joven Club de Computacion y Electronica) in Cuba’s province of Artemisa have begun charging users for their services, yet another measure by the Cuban government that is reverting the country’s social achievements, including those in the field of education.
As of August 25 this year, visitors to these facilities located in Artemisa’s provincial capital must pay two Cuban pesos per hour to use the computers available there.
Anamaris Solorzano Chacon, National Director for Institutional Communication, announces that “it is an experimental measure for the time being which will be implemented gradually across the country.”
Those of us who have visited these establishments know that they offer only the most basic services and that the majority of users are children, who go there to play computer games.
The courses offered at these facilities (including those at the Central Computer Sciences Center in Havana, the main establishment of this national institution) are generally terrible. In addition, the computers are in bad condition, there are no printers and no connection to the Internet, Nauta servers and even other sites of Cuba’s Intranet.
Despite these many shortcomings, Cuba’s Computer Clubs were extolled by Cuba’s authorities as ideal models for the socialization of computer services, preferable to allowing computers and Internet connections to reach the homes of Cubans.
This network of computer and technology-related centers came into existence in 1987 as an initiative of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, with the aim of “contributing to the socialization of information technologies in Cuban society.”
“These clubs are for workers, for institutions, for the people. They are there, next to the neighbors, the family doctors – it is the computer of the Cuban family,” Fidel had said then.
According to the official site, “the services offered by Cuba’s Computer Clubs have a markedly social aim, steered towards the use of new technologies as a means of addressing the most varied demands and problems faced by Cuban society and towards stimulating the social, cultural and spiritual lives of Cubans.”
In addition, the site makes it clear that all services offered by these establishments “are completely free.”
Now, however, these State institutions, belonging to the Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies, are being asked that, in addition to the yearly budget allotted to them, they must secure profits by charging the “neighbor”, “family doctor” and “Cuban family” for their services.
That, incidentally, is a strategy outlined by Cuba’s Communist Party: the measure is based on one of its Guidelines, related to the “gradual elimination of free services and subsidies.”
The same logic has been used to justify the cutbacks (or “rationalization”, as they euphemistically put it) of health services offered at polyclinics and schools in remote rural areas, as well as the rise in prices at the main theaters around the country.
All of the country’s State-financed sectors (culture, sports, education and healthcare) face true danger in the hands of the “reformers.” This is known as State capitalism: the services are there for those who can pay them, like the digital TV decoders being offered.