June 2013, Volume 17, Number 2

Powerful Partnerships

Avanza Cuba broadcast at MDC
The historic Avanza Cuba broadcast at MDC was anchored by journalist Karen Caballero, far left. Panelists included, from left, Miami Internet businessman Vicente Pimienta; Luis Felipe Rojas, an independent journalist and blogger from eastern Cuba who now lives in Miami; and MDC business professor Dr. Rolando Ochoa.

Advancing Internet Access in Cuba

Pichy Film Boys Alejandro González and Maikel Rodríguez
Speaking at the historic broadcast were Alejandro González and Maikel Rodríguez, the Pichy Film Boys of YouTube fame.

Business leaders, political analysts and scholars have long noted the vital connection between a robust, entrepreneurial society and free and easy access to information. Encouraging this type of transformative dialogue, Miami Dade College recently presented Avanza Cuba, a live, streamed program at the College created in collaboration with TV Martí, Radio Martí and Martinoticias.com. The broadcast focused on Internet access and the entrepreneurial and societal change it fosters.

Avanza Cuba marks yet another historic undertaking for MDC, which for more than half a century has firmly advocated for human rights and encouraged innovative entrepreneurship. Sharing her insights in this groundbreaking broadcast was world-renowned dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez, who participated via phone in the one-hour live program. Questions and comments from MDC students and community participants were addressed by noteworthy panelists, including Miami Internet businessman Vicente Pimienta; Alejandro González and Maikel Rodríguez, the Pichy Boys of YouTube fame; MDC business professor Dr. Rolando Ochoa; and Luis Felipe Rojas, an independent journalist and blogger from eastern Cuba, who now lives in Miami. Journalist Karen Caballero anchored the show.

Discussion centered on the island nation’s severe lack of infrastructure and connectivity and a dictatorial government that keeps things this way as a last-ditch effort to control and censor. The limited Internet access that exists in Cuba is for tourists or available only at cyber cafés where steep fees make usage financially prohibitive for most people. Nonetheless, without Wi-Fi clouds or hotspots, resilient and industrious Cubans, including dissident bloggers and business entrepreneurs, have devised ways to overcome the technological obstacles they face by using analog phones, cellphones, cameras, USB drives sent out of the country and occasional, temporary direct access to the Web. The Avanza Cuba participants time and again noted how their country could move ahead light years if there were even a semblance of the Internet access that the U.S. and other countries enjoy.

The Avanza Cuba show concept and format were developed by the leadership of TV Martí and the Miami Dade College Office of Communications and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Initiatives (CLACI). Adding their thoughts and questions to the discussion were students from The Honors College at MDC along with those studying business, engineering and social sciences.

Avanza Cuba stressed how obstacles to Internet access not only violate Cubans’ political and social rights but also squelch their economic and cultural rights, severely impeding them in their search for prosperity,” said MDC CLACI Director Dr. Juan Antonio Blanco Gil.

— Staff Report

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