Last week I attended the Cuba, IT & Social Media Summit in New York City. The summit brought together leaders in the field to discuss the use of these technologies and capabilities in Cuba, today and in the future. Many, but not all, of the participants were of Cuban heritage, either directly born on the island like me or whose parents were.
The meeting was not political in nature. I suspect that most attendees hold views similar to mine regarding Cuba, bemoaning both the repressive nature of the Cuban regime as well as the ineffectual, anachronistic US embargo. But I don’t really know, because politics was not the primary focus of our discussions.
The key overarching goal of the meeting was “to empower Cubans on the island through technology, helping them to communicate with each other more freely on the island and with the outside world, to access information more freely, and to share information with the rest of the world.” A second major goal was to start thinking about the future and specifically what is needed to bring Cuba into the 21st century technologically “once laws have been passed that allow the US and Cuba to trade more freely in technology, both in public and private enterprise, and by industry sector.”
A very good summary of the Cuba, IT and Social Media Summit, and in particular of its key conclusions and outcomes can be found in this entry of the blog El Yuma by Ted Henken, a faculty member in the departments of Sociology and Black and Hispanic Studies at CUNY's Baruch College. (Yuma is a slang name often used in Cuba to refer to Americans.)
The summit was sponsored by the Cuba Study Group, an organization founded ten years ago “to facilitate a peaceful reunification of the Cuban nation leading to a free and open society with respect for human rights, the rule of law and a market-based economy.” Its key objectives include “respect for human and political rights and individual freedoms in Cuba, and denounce the violation of those rights and freedoms”; “substantive economic changes that improve the lives of Cubans”; and “discussion and critical analysis of ideas and formulate policy recommendations that facilitate peaceful change in Cuba.”