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Cuba's pending tech revolution

Patrick Thibodeau | Jan. 19, 2015
If the government doesn't impede it, Cuba may see a lot of new technology.

When asked about the Cuban market, David Frink, a Dell spokesman said in an emailed statement, "we'll watch this carefully, see how the opportunity is shaped by the U.S. government in its discussions with Cuban authorities, and determine how and when we can best extend the capabilities inherent in Dell's end-to-end technology solutions."

Cuba may also develop as an outsourcing center, providing technology and business process outsourcing services to U.S. companies.

Kirk Laughlin, managing director of Nearshore Americas, a news, research and advisory group, said Cuba has potential as an outsourcing center.

It's larger than Central American nations that are being used for this purpose, it is dedicated to education, and it "doesn't have the baggage of drug wars and drug cartels." Being only 90 miles away from Florida, is another plus, he said. Laughlin said he estimates, based on government contacts and other sources, that there are about 6,000 to 10,000 IT professionals in Cuba, mostly in Havana. The University of Havana has a computer science program, and Laughlin expects the country's spending on education "is going to yield good things for IT."

But there is a lot to be learned about the state of IT skills in Cuba and the government's response to the new trade opportunities, Laughlin said.

For instance, will the Cuban government opt for monopoly controls on telecom services or a adopt Burma-type model, (officially known as Myanmar), and hold a telecom license auction? Laughlin said it's not clear yet what Cuba will do.

In a piece written for the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, Luis R. Luis, an independent consultant and economist, looked at the impact of the White House action on the Cuban economy, and estimates that it will bring a one-year growth of 0.5% to 0.6% to the Cuban gross domestic product with the second year being higher.

In regard to tech, Luis, in an email, said the IT market potential is constrained by lack of financing. Total capital goods imports last year in Cuba were estimated at $1.6 billion. "IT equipment import numbers are not available but may be at most $200 million," he said.


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