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The Sovereignty of the Internaut

The Sovereignty of the Internaut
YOANI SANCHEZ, Havana | Junio 08, 2015

I searched the screen fruitlessly for those faces I know so well. In
every report on TV about the International Conference on New Scenarios
of Political Communication in the Digital Realm, I scanned the guests to
identify geeks, computer scientists, bloggers, tweeters and other
“creatures” linked to the use of new technologies in Cuba. Instead of
them, my gaze fell on notorious bureaucrats, official journalists,
cyber-censors and ministry officials.

On the street, popular humor did not ignore the event that took place in
the Palace of Conventions with guests from more than 34 countries.
People attributed the constant crashes on the state phone company’s
Nauta mobile email service, that began on Friday, to the “WiFi network
of ‘that conference’… stealing the bandwidth.” Those who know the many
tricks perpetrated in other sectors to display a lovely showcase for
foreign participants, didn’t find it funny.

For its part, the scant representation from national guests at the
meeting contrasted with the diversity of phenomena related to computing
that exists in our country. From the “ weekly packet,” a compendium of
virally circulating audiovisual material, to the sweeping classified
portal Revolico and the independent Twittersphere, to the clandestine
wireless networks and the urban tribes huddled around video games or the
impact of Facebook among the youngest. A vast and plural cosmos despite
the limitations in connectivity that we suffer.

However, the absence of the alternative sector wasn’t the only
limitation that detracted from the conference. Its most striking failure
lay in not objectively including the just demands of individual
sovereignty and the protection of Internauts throughout the Island.
Especially those who are moving to safeguard users’ private information
against the intelligence services of the government itself. Global
issues such as the cybersecurity of nations and the governance of the
left little space on the agenda for critical discussions about
the existence of a cyber-, the creation of false opinion matrices
by the official machinery of state, and the sites censored for political

As a principal requirement in areas of technology and communication,
Cubans today need access to the Internet. The demand for this
connectivity, long denied, has grown in recent years and is not
exclusive to the most computerized sectors of our society. From the
hacker who wants to test his latest codes on the web, to the owner of a
privately-owned snack bar who wants to access forums on , a good
part of the population feels the need to be interconnected.

Among the millions of Cubans for whom food, and economic
pressures are overwhelming, the idea that a digital presence would bring
more opportunities to their daily lives has also grown in the last five
years. The Internet is not a fad or a luxury, much less superfluous, it
is an imperative need for every human being of the 21 st century.

In the face of this urgency, the Cuban government has opted for caution
and for doling out in dribs and drabs the advantages of this common good
which is the World Wide Web. To support this policy of and
control they have used prohibitive pricing at the public Internet rooms,
where right now an hour of navigating the web costs – at a minimum – the
equivalent of three days wages, some 2.25 convertible pesos. To this is
added an iron policy of censorship and vigilance over the web that has
limited an entire nation’s access to knowledge, opportunities and

Thus, the first demand in Cuba with regards to technology and
communications is respect for the user’s individual sovereignty, on the
base of which should rise national sovereignty in these conflicts. This
latter cannot be seem as a contradiction to the spirit of convergence,
the global village and interconnection that cyberspace brings us. The
“conservation of our cultural and linguistic identity” that was
brandished about in the recently concluded event should not constitute
an argument for shutting us out from the influence of other cultures and
nations. On the web you can’t play at being Robinson Crusoe…

Nor can the State set itself up as the authority to guide our steps on
the web. It is not its role to protect citizens from “the dangers” of
connectivity, nor to prevent us from being “infected” with trends,
opinions or news that we find in our grappling with the network. The
role of the government should be to facilitate universal access to
cyberspace and to guarantee that our rights to free information and
association are met both in the real world as well as in that other
world made up of kilobytes.

By not delving deeply into these burning and crucial points, the
International Conference on New Scenarios of Political Communication in
the Digital Realm became another lost opportunity. A space that
privileged the government voice above the demands of society. An event
to project an Internet in the hands of those who want to control everything.

Source: The Sovereignty of the Internaut –

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