Several Google executives, including executive chairman Eric Schmidt reportedly visited Cuba this week to promote Internet access there. The Google team met with officials and representatives of Cuba’s technology scene to promote a “free and open Internet,” according to 14ymedio.com, which is an independent news website launched last month by Yoani Sanchez. Brett Perlmutter, Dan Keyserling, and Jared Cohen also attended the trip.
Cohen is a former State Department official that co-authored a book with Schmidt about how an open Internet will change society. The group of people took a guided tour of Saturday of the University of Information Sciences, which is a technology research center based in Havana. The group met Friday with editors and reporters of 14medio.com.
One of the topics of discussion was getting fast Internet access in public places. Cuba is known for being one of the most closed off countries in the world. Cuba has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world. Only 5% of Cuba’s residents have periodic access to the Internet, according to U.S. based human rights organization Freedom House. The Cuban government opened 118 public Internet centers across the country to offer residents greater access to the web. Unfortunately, the usage cost is around $4.50 per hour and the average wage for residents there is $20 per month.