Last month, I traveled to Miami to help open the annual Cuba Internet Freedom conference (CIF). The conference was organized by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which is one of the five BBG networks. Now in its second year, CIF explores the opportunities and challenges of internet access on the island.
It’s no secret that we live in a constantly changing world when it comes to media and technology. At the BBG we believe our responsibility in this shifting ecosystem is to not only provide objective and professional news, but also to ensure that people living under restrictive regimes have access to news and information about their communities and the world they live in.
This is a priority for me. No one should have to live without the free flow of information and dialogue. No self-proclaimed, unelected government should stand in the way of free speech as a universal right for all people.
Our work is grounded in the fact that internet access is not a luxury – rather, it is a critical requirement for social and economic growth. And it acts as a catalyst for innovation and a marketplace of ideas.
Prior to the start of the conference, I had the privilege of meeting with 12 talented and passionate Cubans who are making a difference on the island: journalists representing independent media, bloggers, app developers, film makers, tech and platform developers, and activists for political change.
We had a lively and sometimes spirited exchange on what they see as the priorities and greatest challenges to increased internet freedom in Cuba.
While there indeed are many obstacles, I was struck by their resourcefulness and optimism for the future. Their courageous work is pushing towards that future, step by step.
Cuba has one of the lowest levels of internet connectivity in the world. However, even with limited connectivity, exorbitant internet costs, and a state monopoly on services, Cubans are beginning to discover a world of information very different from what official propaganda continues to perpetuate.
But change is coming to Cuba. In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in wifi hotspots on the island, unprecedented interaction in social networks, and a greater understanding of the unlimited possibilities of the internet in the process of globalization.
I’m looking forward to hearing how these young innovators leverage that access. And I hope that through events like the CIF, the BBG can help facilitate a speedy and complete transition in Cuba to a free and open information society.