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Cuba works to join the global economy, and IT sees a golden opportunity

Rebecca Gatesman | June 3, 2016
More than just a tourist destination, the country has a growing population of IT-savvy workers and potential customers for tech gadgets.

"Our [workers] in Cuba are all early adopters, and access to broadband has allowed them to regularly send us work," says Mazorra, who runs CiberCuba. "We hope that by the end of 2016 or early 2017, we'll start to see broadband throughout the country. We have plans to set up offices in Cuba as soon as permitted."

In March, Verizon Communications announced that it had signed a direct interconnection agreement with ETECSA, the government-run Cuban telecom provider that holds a monopoly on the market. Google announced during President Obama's visit that it is in the early stages of providing high-speed Internet to Cuba. (Read opinion columnist Mike Elgan's view of what Google is really accomplishing in Cuba.)

And Sprint signed a roaming data agreement in November with the Cuban provider — at the same time that Chinese company Huawei partnered with ETECSA to sell and service smartphones.

As the country opens up, global companies have taken note, especially technology and tourism leaders, both as a source of human resources and a new consumer market that is largely untapped.

Airbnb, for example, opened up its listings to a global audience, and Stripe Atlas announced in mid-March that it would enter the country to provide its "business-in-a-box" service to allow entrepreneurs to incorporate, receive payments and open a U.S. bank account.

According to Mazorra, the Cuban technology sector is ripe for joining the global freelance economy. Millennial Cubans are anxiously awaiting the Internet not only so that they can satiate their curiosity, he says, but also improve their quality of life and expand their professional potential.

"With thousands of computer science graduates and more enrolling every year, along with a very creative ecosystem of designers, photographers and video-makers, we anticipate that freelancing will have a boom in Cuba once the technology to pay and communicate is in place," says Mazorra.

 

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