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Coding For a More Open Cuba

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In search of an Internet connection, Cubans check their phones outside a center run by a Havana artist who offers access to his Wi-Fi network for free.

Technology experts will convene at Facebook Inc.s Menlo Park, CA, headquarters later this month to focus on solutions for information access within Cuba.

Credit: Desmond Boylan/Associated Press

Technology experts will gather at Facebook's Menlo Park, CA, headquarters later this month to participate in the Code for Cuba hackathon organized by the Roots of Hope nonprofit.

Participants will focus on boosting access to information as Cuba starts considering more open telecommunications. They will brainstorm ways for Cubans to circumvent Internet restrictions and connect into the global stream of information, and then teams will vie for prize money to develop the best solutions during the two-day event.

Roots of Hope's Natalia Martinez says the purpose of the hackathon is to develop programs for immediate application in Cuba while remaining within the bounds of Cuban law, which bars satellite linkage and limits private imports of products such as wireless routers.

Meanwhile, Cuba has set the goal of having 60 percent of its 11 million citizens using the Internet, with connections reaching more than 50 percent of the country's homes, by 2020. Only about 25 percent of Cubans currently access the censored Internet, and home connections are outlawed except for foreigners.

"It's going to be baby steps and it's going to feel incremental and slow," notes IDT's Claude Pupkin. "But in five to 10 years, there's going to be a lot more freedom, more cell-phone penetration, and Cubans will be more connected to the world."

From The Wall Street Journal
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