Much has been made recently about the increasing detente between the United States and Cuba. This is of particular interest to me because of our latest assignment at Small World News. In January we began working on a project to make StoryMaker available to Cuban journalists and activists.
The project includes localizing the app for use in the Spanish language and developing several new lesson paths to help Cuban users take better photographs.
But teaching Cubans technical and media production skills remotely isn’t the most challenging element of this project. Cuba’s more fundamental lack of technology is the real hurdle.
Almost immediately after their first Internet connection in 1996 Cubans began falling behind online. Larry Press runs the very informative “Internet in Cuba” blog, and identifies three major limiting factors on the original potential for growth of internet in Cuba: the US embargo, the Cuban economy, and the government's fear of information freedom. But change is coming and Press seems carefully upbeat about the potential impact of ongoing negotiations between the US and Cuba.
Cuba’s Nauta service became available to smartphone users a year ago. Until there are substantial changes in cost and regulation, Cuban internet usage seems unlikely to shift dramatically. That means the majority of Cubans will continue to experience “the Internet” and “social media” only via email.
For now our Cuba project is focused on exploring how we can not only teach Cubans to create better content, but enable them to transmit that content via the extremely limited means available.
The connectivity issues in Cuba are unlike any other Small World News has encountered and will provide an interesting new challenge. If we succeed, StoryMaker may become a key part of increasing journalistic depth and freedom of expression across Cuba