Online giant Google has recently set up a service in the Cuba, making it the first foreign internet firm to launch in the Caribbean island.
In successfully setting up there, it has raised the hopes of many for reform in one of the planet’s most cut-off nations.
The American technology enterprise opened a new data centre last week, where it intends to store data such as YouTube videos.
The move would indicate that Cuba is ready to open its doors to modernisation, and in turn, a greater access to information for its people. The on-island servers that are being housed in the data centre will make it easier for Cubans to access the services provided by Google.
Before Google’s servers reached Cuba, information from the internet travelled to the island via a submarine cable from South American country Venezuela. For Cubans who had access to the internet, this cable made its speed very slow. Now that Google’s servers are being housed there, they should be able to store traffic-intensive content, such as videos, which will make it simpler for the nation to view them, and allow them to do so at a greater speed.
Google first announced its intentions to launch in Cuba at the end of 2016 and promised that the country could expect to see improvements in terms of the quality of service it receives.
What makes the move so revolutionary in terms of Cuban reforming is that the country has severely restricted internet access that is controlled by the state. This is a big milestone as it is the first time an outside internet firm has hosted anything in Cuba.
Despite the move, it is set to only benefit those who already have internet access, and it continues to be difficult for the average islander to connect to the internet. This is through a combination of controlling law and poor infrastructure. Most Cubans are not allowed to have internet access in their homes, with most only able to go online at some workplaces, educational facilities or one of the 240 public Wi-Fi hotspots on the island, which can cost up to $1.50 (£1.16) per hour. Internet cafés can be even more expensive at around $4.50 (£3.48) an hour. This is not cheap considering the average monthly wage in Cuba stands at $25 (19.31).
It has been estimated that only around 5% of the Cuban population has access to the internet, and experts believe that it will take some time before the country has a more widespread and open access to the online world.
Google has been working alongside Cuba since 2014 when the then US President Barack Obama and Raul Castro, the current President of Cuba, announced that relations between the two nations would be reopening with the US imposing a relaxed trade embargo against the country. Google has said that its work with Cuba is a reflection of its aim to make the internet accessible across the globe by removing a number of barriers, such as connectivity, language and cost.