29 June 2014, 15:23

Google promotes virtues of open Internet in Cuba

Google promotes virtues of open Internet in Cuba

Google’s team of four executives with former CEO of the corporation Eric Schmidt in the lead has travelled for a two-day visit to Havana, Cuba with a mission "to promote the virtues of a free and open Internet", according to a report of a Cuban blogger, Yoani Sanchez on her independent news website. 

Schmidt was accompanied by Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas and a former adviser to secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, as well as Brett Perlmutter and Dan Keyserling.

The group met with IT specialists as well as Cuban authorities, as is reported on the website. Neither of the parties has commented on the meeting so far. The Google team also visited the capital’s University of Information Sciences on Saturday and met with its students.

Sanchez said that many Cubans hope Google will relieve them of having next-to-none Internet in the country. The island’s mass media are under government control and open Internet access is simply not allowed.

According to Reuters, only 2.6 million out of a population of 11.2 million are allowed to use the web, almost entirely limited to government-run centers, foreign companies and tourist hotels. And that’s not all; those who do have access are limited yet again – they are able to explore only a small state-controlled corner of approved websites.

Schmidt, who was Google's CEO from 2001 to 2011 is becoming more active when it comes to issues involving technology and world affairs. His mandate as Google’s executive chairman involves government outreach, thought leadership and building partnerships and business relationships, according to the company.

The trip took months of preparation and would be the first time a Google representative arrives in Havana to discuss technology and Internet access. In 2013 Erich Schmidt expressed a wish to travel to Cuba in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. At the time he noted that Cuba was at the top of the list of countries he would like to visit to promote the free flow of thought via Internet.

Google Ideas is a "a think/do tank that explores how technology can enable people to confront threats in the face of conflict, instability or repression," according to the company’s website.

Schmidt and Cohen are the coauthors of The New Digital Age Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, a book that illustrates pros and cons of the "greatest information and technology revolution in the human history as in continues to evolve". The two of them also have a track record of speaking with leaders of countries that restrict free speech to advocate for a free and open Internet.

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