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The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in João Pessoa, Brazil, from 10 to 13 November 2015. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

 

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>> MODERATOR:  Good afternoon to all.  But we have translation into English and Portuguese.  If you require translation, please use your headset. 

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you very much for the invitation to participate in the open forum of the Federal Republic of Cuba.  We have the Director of Information of the Ministry of Cuba, Mr. Alonso, the network chief of the same ministry, and myself, Carlos Rios Pena, Professor of the Ministry of Education and Culture. 

We will now pass the floor to Fernando Cabrera, who will present the topic that we will present and will explain briefly how we facilitate knowledge by means of networks.  Good afternoon. 

>> FERNANDO CABRERA:  For us it is a pleasure for us for participate in this workshop and share with you our experience from our country, being the victim of the U.S. embargo with many economic limitations, but with a lot of political willpower to include all rights to our citizens.  Cuba has undergone a computerizing process of society. 

We intend to provide computer services by means of the Internet to all our citizens.  According to this national policy, we are moving forward with this.  In our country we have 10,000 schools with around two million students in fundamental education and we have around 200,000 teachers, including universities. 

So when you do any activity in educational centers in our national system, you will have an impact of around 25% of the nation's population.  For this reason, our ministry gives a lot of importance to our activities, because we work with the formation of new Cuban citizens and these citizens learn about the principles of the revolution.  We use the Internet and our purpose is to expand knowledge and the values of our students. 

For this reason, for this we have a laboratory of network in connectivity centers in each school of the country.  This project started five years ago with the purpose of creating the capacities of working in a collaborative network involving all students, all teachers, and this common space for teachers and students should also serve as a meeting point so that families of the students, parents, relatives, also have space to interact and share with teachers and with students.  Skills were developed and this should take about three years for our objective.  Today we have 10% of educational centers connected throughout the network in our country. 

Thus, we have policies for teachers and students to have access to telepathic services according to the education level.  They can access the networks; compare classes and using the Internet as a tool to favor the education, as well as enriching all the activities in schools held throughout the country.  On the other hand, we can want many things, but we also need the necessary equipment, otherwise these ideas would just be ideas and would not be put into practice. 

Our ministry has invested a lot of resources and now Mr. Dayron, who is responsible for the entire computer infrastructure, will share with you what we have done with the help of many friends and with a lot of willpower to work and develop this computer program within the ministry of education.  Later I'll comment what we are doing with regard to content management.

>> DAYRON ALONSO:  Good afternoon, our ministry wants to connect all educational centers in the country as a long‑standing goal.  We are working with the telecom company ETECSA.  We provide services to many students and professors such as email, Internet services, telephony services, conference calls and data ‑‑ data storage services. 

We also have application services.  Also, we have an educational portal.  For next year we plan to include all high school institutions so that students can develop the necessary qualifications to seek information and navigate the Internet, because this will be a key tool for research purposes.  Our ministry has invested significantly throughout five years many resources to invest in state data centers to improve the quality of our services for local users, thereby facilitating network access and access to services. 

Our system is structured based on free software or general license software, because we cannot buy many licenses because of the U.S. embargo.  Currently, our national system uses a blade system, all the telecom infrastructure of the national education system.  The Internet service currently generates 900 giga of traffic, which is considered quite sizable and professors and teachers, they have more and more access to this service. 

Cuba has an average of 100,000 international visitors and 50,000 Cuban visitors.  To prepare this information, this is what we currently have in terms of technology.  We have the computing laboratories, the network, the remix, which is the name of this ministry network, and we also have developed the portal, which is the pride and joy of the ministry. 

In the site there are many contents, such as the methodology treatments, how to prepare the Cuban curriculum classes from the first semester all the way up to the end of high school.  All schools in the country still do not have connectivity and they do not have all the telematic services available.  The information should be inclusive and all have the right to receive the same we have sought many alternatives.  Since we have the portal and it is taken to all the schools, we use DVDs.  We record all subjects in the portal.  We have all the videos with all the contents.  These DVDs are delivered to the school by means of land networks.  All the contents is there.  So students in a school that is not connected will not lag behind when compared to students studying in connected schools.  So they can access all content.  There are local servers to access e‑mails and seek local portals as well. 

Why is this content so rich?  This content is peculiar.  When we see the experience of other contents and other regions, we see that these are the same.  There are companies that produce these.  The contents produced for Cuban schools are developed by Cuban professors with 15 or 20 years of experience and for Cuban teachers based on student interests.  This is the great strength of the country.  It's not a programmer who develops material for this program.  No, teachers develop this program.  These are teachers who have all the educational foundations to develop this content, who put information on the portal.  Independent of the portals, there are also connections to educational software packages to promote learning and to help navigate by means of all these products.  There's also a connection that is called the country's history showing the highlights of Cuban history and the discovery of our country. 

There are more than 89 media products and another line is the production of virtual visits, students that are from a given geographical region can visit museums in other parts of the country or the world without physically going there.  So this is currently what we are offering in our educational system.  Those 10% connected schools are not limited to the use of social networks.  Internet use is used to seek information.  We also encourage projects like the one I will just show you. 

This project is called Story Telling in the classroom.  Children use Facebook, Twitter, and elementary schools in some states of the country are able to do projects in collaboration with other cities in Latin America, like San Jose in Costa Rica, Managua in Costa Rica, and also communicate with friends in Colombia.  They do this for a specific project.  Since 2010 we have this project of partnering classrooms. 

Cuba has participated in this and won twice this award.  They started then their own project.  We then invited schools from other Latin American countries and named this "Joining Classrooms" so by students, by using social networks and seeking information on the Web can develop projects by means of exchange programs.  They can exchange maps, for example, share media, like short videos.  Later, they will present this to a judging committee which gives them the opportunity to develop skills in terms of research developed skills to meet the millennium objectives of these skills.  This is the Cuban experience of how, with few resources, it was able to use these resources use you go the ministry of education laboratories. 

I would also like to add that today, at the end of 2015, we have 26,000 professors with complete Internet access to search information and to process content in lieu of the education of the country.  So this is our experience over the last five years.  This is only working with 10% of connected schools.  Next year we will increase this number and we hope that all schools of the national educational system should be connected by means of this network.  Thanks to political willpower, as well as social willpower in our country in terms of in terms of Internet use.  We want to improve the quality of education in our country.

We apologize.  We wanted one state of Cuba to participate remotely, which is developing this project of joining classrooms.  But due to technical reasons, it was not possible to have this link available.  Therefore, we would like to start a Q&A session now.  We will try to respond to all of them.  Thank you very much for your attention. 

We can see a video on how this teaching process occurs in some schools.  These are images from computer laboratories.  We can see the students working on this project Joining Classrooms.  All students share content.  They work in a network and exchange content with students in Colombia are also part of the project as well as students in Mexico, etc.  Now the floor is yours. 

>> AUDIENCE:  So Cuba, I understand has a Cuba ‑‑ Cuban workers are involved in developing software or technology now.  And also, do you have any problems or what problem do you have as far as the role of U.S. multinationals like Google, Facebook, and others?  What is their role in Cuba?  What do you see happening as far as the role of these big ITC companies in Cuba?

>> MODERATOR:  Today the ministry of education in Cuba, I am referring specifically, in the ministry we have a network for producing educational software, especially in the education universities.  Here we work together with the researchers to develop software and in the end we work together with designers and programmers as well.  They give the final shape to this educational software that also reflects years of research and try to address specific problems according to the levels of education they are destined for. 

You were talking about some of the limitations we experience.  Unfortunately, our relationship with the United States is a process that will take time and evolve gradually.  It's not something that will change overnight.  Even though the embassy is open, there are many laws restricting the relations between Cuba and foreign companies.  In the specific case of Google, as you were saying, there are many applications available from the play store that we are unable to download.  Those are educational apps that we cannot use because they are forbidden.  The IP protocols of Cuba has been -- and we are actually in disadvantage in comparison to other countries.  So we're now evaluating the validity of those apps and the possibility of implementing them in our educational system. 

Did I answer your question? 

>> AUDIENCE:  (No audio).

>> MODERATOR:  Yes, that's correct. 

>> JOANNA BRONOWICKA :  My name is Joanna Bronowicka.  I'm from the Center of Human Rights.  I wanted to ask, I'm not sure if you can answer the question, but more about the other aspects of the normalization process.  When it was announced it also included fact that there will be now more possibilities for foreign companies to invest in building infrastructure to develop broadband Internet.  I would like to know if this is actually happening, if the private sector is involved in bringing that to Cuba.  Another thing I would like to ask up is it seems like the students have access in schools and, therefore, supervised by adults, by teachers, or educators.  Is it a choice of this policy that the students only have access with adults?  Or is it because you want to kind of see control what the children get to see or is there any rationale for that, or is it just because it's limited to schools because you don't have enough infrastructures to provide it elsewhere?

>> MODERATOR:  Well, the first part of your question, I believe that ‑‑ I think that the person who can answer this and is in a better capacity is the engineer Ernesto Hernandez.  He is the IT director to the Ministry of Telecommunications in Cuba.  Luckily he's right here by my side.  Going back to education, before I hand it over to Ernesto, it's not that we want to keep control.  We just want to get better for our children.  At an early age children don't know what's right and what's wrong and they can't tell if they click an item on the screen.  In the previous workshop we were discussing child pornography and protection of children online, sexual abuse.  This is our objective, indeed, to restrict some websites that can lead to pornography or pedophiles.  There is constant observation of children.  We trust our students, but we have a mission as educators.  We must care for the children and avoid any problems. 

And we also have to prevent them from committing mistakes that could affect them morally or prevent them that they find themselves in situations that they cannot handle.  That's why we restrict websites that can be related to sexual abuse or pornography, as is done elsewhere in the world.  We use blacklists, Internet blacklists.  This is what we have been using. 

Now I'll hand it over to engineer Ernesto, who will answer the second part of your question.

>> ERNESTO HERNANDEZ:  Good afternoon.  I think it's important that Cuba and United States have started to normalize their relation, but for that the embargo policy needs to change.  This is a policy that has harmed our country and our people for over 50 years.  And there are also some other issues, such as returning the Cuban lands now occupied by an American military base.  So normalization is a process that would be complex and that will require time.  We need to make advances according to what is possible. 

Now, going to the topic of telecommunications, we have made some progress.  As you know, agreements have been signed to enable direct traffic.  In fact, only just last week we signed an agreement with Sprint so that we can have homing services with ETECSA.  There is another issue that affects the development of our relations.  Not only in the area of communications, but in other areas as well.  I am referring to the impossibility of accessing funding sources.  In fact, we are ‑‑ the banks are offering several funding lines and they can make payments and provide for data flows.  The Cuban money should go through those flows.  So there is an open path with several possibilities.  It would be a difficult process and long lasting.  For over five decades, Cuba was submitted to hostilities and has been under siege by the largest power house in the world. 

Now I'll hand it over to Professor Iroel.

>> IROEL ESPINOZA:  I was told there is a difference between blockade and embargo, and the embargo is the world that's better known in Brazil.  Embargo are the actions taken against Cuba when the United States approved the German bank in $800 million or as French bank did or imposes a penalty on that bank for having transactions with Cuba.  This is really a persecution, a persecution that applies to all Cuban financial transactions.  The embargo is still in place.  This prevents reaching agreements, for example.

The agreement with Sprint, in fact, the most expensive phone calls are between the United States and Cuba, the most expensive roaming charges.  The transaction can be made directly, but the funds have to flow through banks from other countries and have to be converted into Euros because Cuba cannot make payments in U.S. dollars.  Of course, as you know, every time you engage in a process like this, this is much more expensive than just having direct exchange transaction when we have to make the first main payment to Sprint last month, while the funds have not arrived yet because the American treasury is under the control of the money.  Of course, this makes business with Cuba very difficult.

And so this is no longer an embargo.  It's more of a blockade, because either because they have applied penalties or they retained the funds when you want to host Cuban content in an external server.  If you want to sell technology solutions to Cuba, everything, of course, leads to sanctions and fines.  So we're not being blocked by Haiti.  We're being blocked by the United States.  It's very difficult for countries to make the decision of establishing commercial relations with Cuba and running this risk. 

In spite of this, in Cuba all children attend school.  In spite of this, all sick people in Cuba get medical care with technology base that uses computers for the benefit of human beings and not the other way around. 

Cuba is one of the few countries with 11 million inhabitants in which you print all textbooks based only on nationally produced content, and we else have cartoon‑making industry that leaves nothing in comparison to Disney.  We have our villains, and for that you need your own set of ideas and culture to draw from.  We propose content and develop critical citizens that can create a whole universe and make his or her own choices based on the information and based on the knowledge they have acquired through education.

>> AUDIENCE:  I am Alberto from the youth program IGF.  I would like to know about the participation of youth in the development of the Internet.  What are the projects does the youth ministry have in mind, considering the embargo and the need to have youth freely access the Internet? 

>> MODERATOR:  Today the Cuban educational curriculum is going through improvements.  This improvement process of our educational system is reshaping everything that relates to the Internet and the use of computers. 

Even in teaching science, this means that Cuban students will be better prepared and will have access to content, high quality content.  On the other hand, access of the young, which is the part of the population that you're mostly concerned about, is a priority for 2016, connecting educational centers, both high schools, vocational schools, and higher education from 15 to 18 years old.  Those are the schools that the ministry of education services due to our proximity with higher education. 

We want that from those institutes, we develop citizens with international level.  We all know the prestige that Cuban education has on the high school and higher educational levels.  So we have those training programs in high education and the middle school.  We also have developed and fostered other skills.  We have also promoted the use of specialized search engines, different areas of knowledge, areas where information is not as trivial and that are more oriented to science.  Today those search engines exist, but we want to teach students that may not be aware of them how to make searches.  And how to find knowledge that will make them better human beings and will help them assimilate the higher education curriculum better. 

>> AUDIENCE:  I'm from Mexico and I'd like to congratulate you on your education initiatives.  This is a challenge many countries share.  I would like to know how you work with teachers and how you use digital tools in learning, and secondly, how do you assess the development of digital competency in children and how do you monitor their development?  I think that you have addressed interconnectivity in a very effective way.  When it his time to update content so that it can be used by teachers in schools, what experience proved to be the most adequate for you?

>> MODERATOR:  This is a very interesting question.  Every three months we update the content in our educational portal.  This is something we do on a regular basis.  We have professors that specialized in creating content.  This makes the teaching experience much richer.  They can also upload their own content to the portal.  And later this content can be downloaded by students and teachers alike.  This is part of our current update process. 

On the other hand, you asked me about the assessment of the content, hour experience, of course, is we have an experience of 15 years in education, so we have some dedicated departments with more experienced teachers in each of the municipalities in the country.  They collaborate with the methodology teams in the provinces that are also linked to a national committee.  To it's superficial system to assess the impact of the user of educational software in Cuban schools. 

The curriculum of each of the disciplines is prepared to be used together with educational software.  And we also have several other activities.  When you offer content only as a textbook, usually the teacher will refer the students to a chapter in the portal where there are exercises that the students can take.  After they complete the exercise, they receive feedback.  So students have time to use the computers and for take exercises online.  Training and development, we have had a number of years of experience.  A teacher, to be eligible for a Cuban school, has to undergo training.  We have several modules including an ICT module that will foster their skills.  We are also creating 16 centers of teacher development that use technology in an experimental way in tablets, etc., so that we can evaluate the user for this technology in the country. 

Here we see a sample of the Cuba portal.  So we have centers installed in different educational levels and this helps us monitor the impact of educational content in the skills development of teachers and the success of students using this tool.

>> ERNESTO HERNANDEZ:  I would like to highlight two issues that we believe to be fundamental that are also linked to the question that has just been asked.  Firstly, the portal is not only a tool used for student development.  We also have a connection between the portal content, families, and teachers, because education is not a responsibility that applies only to schools.  The families have a very important role to play.  And the portal has been designed under this premise that education should integrate students, teachers, and families alike.  And as for content production and the different project we are engaged in, I would like to mention a nice encyclopedia that has been created in Cuba five years ago.  And you can see it online.  And it's used in all Cuban schools.  Today we also have an offline version that satisfies and complements some infrastructure shortages we experience.  We also have a mobile version available.  Today there are over 3 million mobile devices in Cuba, a substantial figure.  This is an encyclopedia that has been developed by Cuba with the support of many friends around the world. 

We have high value, historic content in the encyclopedia that serves as a source of information and knowledge for our students.  This has been a revolutionary project for our country.

>> Five years ago we found ourselves with a problem.  Today connectivity seems to be a very difficult challenge.  But five years ago it was much worse.  And what was said about Cuba, we, of course, everything said we started participating in Wikipedia.  Since we were very few, every time we have a chance to contribute, they deleted our comment.  As you know, Cuba is at war.  In this war, 99.9% is a war of opinion.  They say that Cuba does one thing and we do exactly the opposite. 

Of course I am talking about contemporary articles, not articles about what happened 400 years ago or geology or astronomy.  Those are the articles in Wikipedia that address contemporary political issues. 

So we started this project to enable Cuban citizens to participate, because the content is hosted in Cuba, but anyone can participate.  Today we have 24,000 collaborators and part of them not residing in Cuba, and 150,000 articles. 

And we have over 200,000 hits a day.  We have also several other problems due to our broadband restrictions.  We don't count on much participation.  So we invented an offline version.  You can download and you can access to the content.  We also have disk‑based versions without images for low capacity computers, other versions with images for the computers available in schools in versions for Windows and Linux, and also for mobile devices.  So computers are connected and the most interesting thing I think that there were some ‑‑ I think it was Yolanda or ‑‑ the visits are no longer coming from Cuba.  They are coming mostly from Mexico.  Cuba ranks fourth, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and finally Cuba. 

We have content on Cuba and Cuba is always the most consulted.  So it shows that we are a competent and competitive site where people seek different points of view on technological, political, and historical data.  And there's a much higher reception than what we had initially thought.  This is our ‑‑ we're celebrating our fifth anniversary.  And we grew sevenfold. 

The 11 million Cubans continue to access this site.  So our footprint is regarding content in Cuba than the content in Wikipedia.  This shows our capacity to produce content in Cuba.  In 11 million inhabitants, we have 1 million in universities.  All of them have received basic qualification to participate in the information society. 

We have an important percentage that speaks and uses English, and who can participate in English means of communication as well as other languages.  All high school students need to reach this level.  People are capable of creating content on the Web.  These are not just content consumers, but rather content producers.  They know how to write and create content on the Web.  This is what is behind the growth of a project such as Aduka.  Thank you very much, and congratulations. 

>> AUDIENCE:  (No audio).

>> MODERATOR:  In Cuba, informatics is a subject in elementary education ‑‑ in preschool education.  These are preschool teachers who create basic skills to use keyboards, the mouse, and also language skills, icon language skills, so that children can recognize all icons.  They don't know how to read yet.  This creates basic skills to use computers. 

I had also mentioned that we are improving the school syllabus.  Today we envision that we will once again take on a good practice in programming teaching at earlier ages or school years.  So we will evaluate the use of scratch.  We know this.  If you have to use the programming code just with algorithms and with visual language, children may resolve complex problems that help to develop logical thinking and their life vision. 

On the other hand, today we teach programming in pre‑college years, for example, in the 12th year, students that receive a systemic evaluation on the use of programming.  We noticed that in previous years even if we have not taken this out away from the context, they're still a bit lacking in terms of computer teaching. 

In prior years we had some students that were motivated and could choose an optional course, but it was not part of the regular syllabus.  So they can take programming courses as well as optional or elective courses.  On the other hand, regarding professional aspects, for example, in engineers, we have programming engineers.  So each province of the country offers a polytechnical course, but focuses specifically on teaching programming to ‑‑ so that later we have professionals working as systems analysts.  We also provide continuous education and we have maintained these continuous education courses due to the demand of people specialized in this area.  We have the informatics engineer.  The best example would be Mr. Dayron, who graduated, the computer sciences university.  They graduate 3,000 informatics each year this allows Cuba to have a strength in the production of apps and this puts us at the forefront when compared to other countries in the continent and other parts of the world, because we have a set of youth who are prepared and present a great potential.  These informatics engineers constitute the two years we offer.  We have several institutes, the university, the Rio University, and polytechnical courses as well that are internationally acknowledged because of the formation of higher informatics in that area.

>> AUDIENCE:  Even RT has a channel to get their news and information out.  Al Jazeera.  Are there any plans in Cuba to have a channel ‑‑

>> MODERATOR:  We don't have the translation.  Sorry. 

>> AUDIENCE:  What I was asking is because economic blockade and news blockade of the United States, countries have felt that they had to set up their own channels, news channels, such as Venezuela, RT, or Al Jazeera to reach the American people.  Is there any plan to do something from the Cuba perspective internationally? 

>> MODERATOR:  Cuba, together with other Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia are part of a nation called TeleSUR.  It's a Spanish channel.  TeleSUR a year ago started a program line in English.  Cuba is a poor country.  There is a blockade.  And it does not have enough resources to implement a program like this, as happens with large countries that can do this.  For example, Russia, China, they have channels like this.  It should establish partnerships with other countries to leverage a project like this.  Our dream was never to be a protagonist, but be Latin American.  With the help of other Latin American countries, defend our culture, our identity, our language, and it's excellent that we speak Spanish in this forum.  Unfortunately, there is a disproportionate content in one language and of those languages of the Northern Hemisphere.  There is a significant difference.  Not just that, we know very well that many contents that we consume in our language and our countries are developed in other hemispheres.  Argentina only consumes 20% of content produced locally.  Imagine other countries like Brazil, Mexico, etc.  They have a large territory to create a national content for us.  If we do not integrate smaller countries in the world, there are 500 million people speaking Spanish, we Cubans are only 11 million living in Cuba.  We are very far from China, which has 1 billion inhabitants. 

I think someone said a metropolis, they have their own language.  We face this dilemma.  We need to seek this internally.  In Cuba we have a TV network offering eight national channels and we are transitioning towards digital TV.  We have two channels that just work with education and they produce this type of content.  Very soon we'll involve with TV and we will focus on Internet and offer TV via Internet. 

Considering the size of the country, considering the low population besides the economic needs, content consumption cannot just be met with national production, but with an integration with other cultures.  When there was a cinema festival in Latin America because the dictatorship finished with a cinema festival Cuba organized the first cinema festival.  It created the first Latin enterprise promoted it with the content of the Internet we can potentialize even further the integration.  We should seize these opportunities and not wait for the mirror coming from the north to reflect something that we are not.  Any further questions?  Any doubts? 

So with this I would like to thank you for your presence and your attention and we can continue our conversation in the hallways of this event.  Thank you very much for your attention. 

(Adjourned)