Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New data on Cuban connectivity: 2010 ICT report from Cuba's National Office of Statistics (en espanol)

Cuba's National Statistics Office (ONE) has just made available its newest data on island connectivity and information and communications technology (ICT/TIC).

You can go here to view the website and here for the entire PDF report.

Below is my back-of-the-envelope analysis of the data.

The report covers a number of areas of which three stand out to me: (1) telephone (land line) and cellphone service and infrastructure, (2) computers and Internet access, and (3) "social use" and "public access" to computing via Cuba's Joven Clubes de Computacion (JCC).

In terms of telephones, the big story is the rapid growth of the use of cellphones in Cuba over the past 3-4 years (while the growth in land lines has been stagnant even as it has been gradually digitized).  For example, there were just 22,600 cell phones in Cuba in 2002, while this number jumped to 152,700 by 2006, and roughly doubled each year after that hitting 330,000 in 2008, 621,200 in 2009, and toping the million mark in 2010 with 1,003,200.

Also of note is the growing chasm between the number and growth in land lines and the number and growth in active cell phones.  For example, while almost all phone lines in Cuba were "fixed" (i.e., land lines) in 2001 (574,000 of 575,000), by 2010 only half of the country's more than two million (2,291,455) telephone lines were land lines (1,163,470), with most of the rest (more than a million) being cell lines.

Thus, like in many developing countries around the world, the introduction of cellular technology has been truly revolutionary, allowing places like Cuba to leapfrog into the mobile phone era.

The issue of Internet access is addressed in the chart and graphic below. Just under 60% of Cuba's 724,000 PCs are on line on one fashion or another.  However, this does not mean that all or most of these "on line" computers are connected to the world wide web.  In most cases, these computers have only e-mail access or are connected to Cuba's domestic Intranet, not the global web.

In terms of individual access and use of the Internet, Cuba reports 1,790,000 users out of a 11 million plus population.  There are 64 PCs for every 1,000 residents (but presumable this PC number includes both individual PCs and the PCs of state entities).  Finally, the report claims that there are 159 Internet users for every 1,000 residents, slightly up from 111/1,000 in 2006.

The following graphic indicates that while nearly all state entities and institutions have computers, only a little more than half possess an Intranet connection, while less than a third are connected to the world wide web.

A final area touched on by the report are Cuba's network of 606 "Joven Clubs" for computation.  These JCCs are located around the country and free for users.  They collectively possess 9,356 computers, employ 2,711 professors, and claim nearly 2.5 million graduates since their inception.  An important issue not addressed in the report is the ease of access to these clubs (they are free, but are they easily accessible geographically, and does one have to be a member of any organization to gain access to them).  A final key issue is what kind of access their computers have to the Internet.

Of course, a final issue that will be interesting to watch is whether and how these statistics on ICT and access to the Internet will change in the future when Cuba itself goes "on line" via the new broad-band cable from Venezuela (sometime later this summer).

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