HAVANA – Google has opened its first technology center in Cuba in the Havana studio of artist Alexis Leyva, better known as Kcho, offering no-cost access to the Internet at much faster speeds than those normally available on the island.
The Google + Kcho.Mor center will give Cubans a chance to familiarize themselves with the latest generation of gadgets from the U.S. technology giant, such as the cardboard virtual reality goggles for use with mobile devices
State telecom company Etecsa will provide the Internet connection, though at much faster speeds than those available at its roughly 60 Wi-Fi public hotspots across the Communist-ruled country.
While showing EFE around the facility, Kcho said that the initial contact with Google took place last July during his visit to Washington for the re-opening of the Cuban Embassy.
To make the idea a reality, he said, “we had to overcome old taboos and obstacles that the (U.S. Treasury Department’s) Office of Foreign Asset Control has against technological relations with Cuba.”
OFAC is responsible for enforcing Washington’s 53-year-old economic embargo against Cuba.
Kcho, who holds a seat in the Cuban parliament, said he hopes the center will serve as a bridge between universities and scientific institutions in the Caribbean country and the United States.
“During his visit to Cuba (U.S. president) Barack Obama recognized our country’s achievements in health and education, and this site will help us to share that,” Kcho said. “I think that users of these kind of spaces will be the ones who show the world that the blockade (embargo) should not exist for one more day.”
Obama, during his March 20-22 visit, said that all Cubans should have Internet access.