Intellectual Freedom, the Digital Divide, and Cuba

I’ve started doing some research for an intellectual freedom project that examines the relationship between the government and the media in Cuba.  By way of the “Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom” blog, I came across this article that the Guardian ran last May.  The issue of the Cuban government restricting access to Cuba’s most popular blog is, of course, disconcerting if, admittedly, emblematic of the current information environment in Cuba.  What surprised and concerned me perhaps even more significantly, was this line: “Old Havana has just one internet cafe, a state-owned enterprise charging £2.50 an hour for computer use, a sum that is a third of the average Cuban monthly salary.”

Having the ability to access information is an essential element to intellectual freedom.  In the States, much of the significance of the First Amendment, in regards to intellectual freedom, has just as much to do with being able to freely and easily access diverse information as it does with being allowed to speak freely.

Of course, this is not the first time that I’ve perceived a connection between the digital divide and what I like to call “equality in information.”  But I think that it is imperative that we frequently remind ourselves of how interconnected digital divide and intellectual freedom issues often are.  Addressing one and not the other often overlooks a significant portion of a bigger issue.  In this case, Raúl Castro could lift all governmental bans on access to the Internet today, which would be a cause for joy, in terms of intellectual freedom.  Yet, until the digital divide is bridged, a majority of Cubans would still be unable access this information.

Addressing the digital divide and intellectual freedom in Cuba are both daunting and, in many ways, distinct tasks.  I will be focusing my efforts on intellectual freedom, but I need to remember that it is important to often take a step back and look at the whole equation.  This can be overwhelming, but it should also provide an even stronger impetus to address these issues head on.


6 Responses

  1. All this is true, and outrageous. But where there is a will for freedom there is a way to make it happen. The Gerneation Y blog still gets out every few days, and people still read it. Unfortunately, it appears to be blocked for most Cubans. But they will find a way. They call it “resolver,” a Cuban word that means they will do what they have to do survive physically as well as intellectually.

  2. Talking Cuba: thanks for your comment, and I appreciate having more information about the plight of Generacion Y and bloggers in Cuba. Your blog will be a great resource for me, as I look more into the relationship between the government and the media in Cuba, in regards to intellectual freedom.

  3. Year Zero.

    I would only just like to touch upon (what I have known to be) the act of “surviving” in Cuba, as expressed in the previous reply. The use of this term, which I understand is most often associated with the rise of “command capitalism” in Cuba, will undoubtedly also address the intellectual freedom situation. Yet this reference initially struck me as doing a disservice to a Cuba that has been evolving from 1959, and in a very Cuban way, bring change as they recognize the “natural limits of the regime” (as stated by Orlando Pardo).

    In a response to a spontaneous reading of his book, supported in organization by Yoani Sánchez (Blog Generacion Y), the marking of time and seizing of opportunity struck me as very Cuban, at least in terms of the young Cubans I know. These Cubans in Havana that I speak of regard many of restrictions placed upon them as essentially Cuban (since the time marked is their entire lifetime) yet still hold the steady thoughtful accumulation of what they need, intellectual or otherwise. Indeed they are finding a way.

  4. I was just talking with a friend about the economizing I’ve had to do since getting laid off and then I think about paying a third of my monthly salary for internet access. It makes me realize how sometimes we really do take how much freedom of information we have in this country for granted. I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to fight for it, just the opposite, mainly I’m impressed at how hard people are fighting and under what conditions elsewhere.

  5. I read your blog for quite a long time and must tell that your articles are always valuable to readers.

  6. Thanks, much, for the kind words, Samuel. I’ve been quiet on here lately, but I hope to have a chance to start writing again early in the summer.

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