Challenges within ICT & Art

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People connect to the internet at a public WiFi spot in Havana (Photo by: Tricia Johnson)

Infrastructure

As with all sectors in Cuba, slow Internet is a major hindrance to using ICT tools. In-home Internet connections are reserved for academics, journalists, foreigners, and government officials. Even with fixed, broadband Internet connection, the slow speed limits its practicality, providing enough connectivity for simple text messages through email, whatsapp, or Facebook but not much else. If an artist is lucky enough to have access to in-home Internet, it will not be fast enough to upload photos or videos of the artist's work. Public WiFi hot spots provide the same challenges of connectivity, in addition to the hindrance of carrying equipment to a public park and uploading content in the hot sun. While most artists and organizers have smart phones, the lack of data plans keeps them from connecting to the Internet.


Access

Most Cuban artists do not have regular access to the Internet, which limits both the frequency with which they are able to update content, as well as the reach of their online presence. Some artists save up content until they are able to splurge for an hour of Internet use at a hotel, where faster Internet is available for a prohibitive price of up to 10 CUC per hour—the equivalent of half a month of a government salary.
However some artists have more access, either from international recognition of their work, opportunities to travel abroad, or connections with foreign markets. Aside from the benefits of earning dollars by selling their work abroad, and thereby gaining greater economic freedom to travel and live comfortably international connections also mean that foreign galleries can manage pages, artists can access the internet while touring abroad, and buyers can connect with artists who have greater access to the Internet.

Training

When organizations and artists have an online presence in Cuba, there is a lack of training around social media use and website design. Art historians or artists themselves manage the social media pages of institutions, such as Museo de Bellas Artes, and have little to no experience with social media or web design. Additionally, as the Internet is a new arrival to the island, page managers do not benefit from the experience of having grown up in the era of the Internet. With limited access to the Internet, learning from and experimenting with a personal social media page is extremely limited. Hashtags, social media opportunities, and best practices around promotion are foreign concepts. Additionally, older artists are often uninterested in dedicating the time to learn and understand the Internet and social media. Considering the challenges that must be overcome—high prices, low connectivity, the necessity of traveling to WiFi hot spots—the frustration of learning a new skill is not worth the effort for many. This lack of understanding disincentives investment in the sector, as few recognize its potential.

Written by: Tricia Johnson