Speech by Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, Commander of the Revolution and Minister of Informatics and Communications, at the High Level Panel “National ICT Policies for Development and Sovereignty”, on the occasion of the XIII Convention and Informatics Fair 2009” on February 11, 2009.
Dear Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union,
Dear leaders of international organizations,
Dear ministers and government high officials in the area of Informatics and Communications,
Dear scientists, specialists and entrepreneurs,
Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The subject bringing us together for Informática 2009 is the importance of information and communications technologies for the development and the sovereignty of our peoples. In order to move ahead, it is essential to count on sustainable and supportable development in the area concerning us, the ICTs.
Dramatic changes have occurred in the world from the time when, two years ago, the 2007 edition of Informática was inaugurated. The world is going through an economic crisis that has not yet bottomed out, a crisis whose depth, extension and duration is still not possible to define. But one thing we do know and that is that today’s crisis has been developing practically from the time of our last meeting, brewing in the United States through the avarice, greed and dishonesty of the apocalyptic horsemen of the financial industry based on Wall Street and the criminal idleness of that country’s leaders who are more interested in defending their free market ideology than in protecting the well-being and means of subsistence of their worker-citizens. .
The effects of the crisis are beginning to be felt in all regions of the world. Awareness is growing around the fact that we are facing a situation comparable only to the one we went through with the Great Depression that brought down the world during the 1930s.
Then as now, the crisis also originated with the financial institutions of Wall Street. Today, the number of unemployed workers reaches the tens of millions; millions of families have lost or are threatened with the loss of their homes, while the Wall Street industry gentlemen shamelessly add to their pockets billions of dollars, as profits for work done.
If history teaches us anything, it is that the negative consequences of this situation will land upon the backs of the workers in the developed capitalist countries, as well as upon the peoples in the Third World.
Added to that is the negative impact of the continuing imperial wars, punishing those called by the former United States president as “dark corners of the world”, in order to “change regimes” not enjoying imperial favor or to pursue elusive terrorists, but which in fact were bringing about the indiscriminate death of tens of thousands of innocent children, women and men of the civilian population, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, while some terrorist was being pursued; not to mention the massive destruction of material wealth and their consequences of hunger, misery and suffering for the population, and the adverse effects for the future development of those nations.
These facts are a clarion call, summoning us to redouble the efforts for the fulfillment of the tasks to be accomplished by the information and communications technologies that should lead to material and spiritual development, as well as to safety and the effective exercise of our nations’ sovereignty.
The event at which we are gathering together today takes place at a time when the accomplishment of these objectives turns into a compelling task asking for joint work, for the union of everyone’s wills and abilities, to undertake mutual projects; in short, for the full integration of our initiatives, our material resources and policies that lead towards guaranteeing the complete development of our nations.
The words written by José Martí more than one century ago today have a visionary validity: “Trees must form ranks to block the seven-league giant!”
To reach these goals, we must adopt and master the new technologies, to guarantee the security and the invulnerability of our communication networks, to apply the technologies, standards and open code informatics applications. Moreover, it is necessary to accompany all that with sustained work in the fields of knowledge management and development of human capital, allowing us to accomplish an overwhelming advance in research, development and implementation of our own scientific and technological innovations.
These actions should be framed by the consolidation of international strategic alliances with those countries, institutions and companies working for the same goals.
For our Latin American and Caribbean countries, ALBA (Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas / Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) today constitutes an example of the materialization of the real and effective integration of nations having common origins and destinies as well as the historic task facing them to accomplish their full and true independence, allowing us to fully develop the potential of our human and material wealth, and to act with our own voice within the concert of nations, as Bolivar and Martí dreamed.
The Ministry of Informatics and Telecommunications, in its role as leader and regulator of the info-communications in Cuba, has prepared a Development Strategy for the five year period from 2007 to 2012. At this year’s Fair, 23 Cuban projects are being presented, constituting a sampling of the advances achieved by Cuba during this period.
An irrevocable criterion for accomplishing these results lies in the Cuban telecommunications infrastructure evolving towards a greater network stability and security that expands penetration as well as the systematic increase of the quality and diversity of the services.
During this process, and during the search for new technologies, we will always be on the alert to close ranks and rid our actions of the consumer wolf disguised in the sheep’s clothing of new technologies, in order to be able to discard those whose only result would be the wasting of our resources and the attachment to technologies that could obstruct the development of the country and limit its sovereignty.
In short, the technological sovereignty we favor implies that we adopt and master technologies, working towards the security and invulnerability of the telecommunication networks, employing open technologies and standard programs and open code informatics applications, developing our own capacities for the promotion of research, development and innovation, extending our knowledge as well as developing the education of scientists and technicians in universities, technical institutes and other educational centers such as the Computer Youth Clubs, and favoring the strategic alliances that would give us the possibility to learn about new technologies and knowledge in an comprehensive way, with mutual respect and benefits.
With this aim in mind, we are at work on the project and construction of an optical fiber submarine cable connecting Venezuela, Jamaica and Cuba. The first two of these will provide connectivity with the rest of the world through third party cable systems. This will be a fundamental step in the infrastructure of Cuban international telecommunications for voice, data and image traffic, as it will break the present dependence of traffic exclusively via satellite, a situation being imposed on Cuba by the actions of the economic and commercial blockade of the United States government for nearly half a century which extends to the intent to suffocate or dominate the Cuban communications capacity with the rest of the world.
Once in operation, it will signify a remarkable improvement in the quality of services since it will introduce technological breakthroughs in channel transmission and multiplexation, while decreasing costs as traffic increases. It will strengthen the stability and security of our communications and of national sovereignty and independence. More recently, we have agreed to new satellite links with Russia.
These actions will allow us in Cuba to broaden services for Internet access and use, maintaining the principle of prioritizing the social use of that instrument, instead of the model of individual consumer use that does not benefit the citizenry.
The country has planned and is moving forward in the use of open standards and platforms, first in the central state administration bodies and later, in the electronics industry.
Work towards improving the informatization of society is being reinforced; along with this, among other achievements, the administrative transactions citizens must make will become smoother.
In that sense, efforts are being made to develop the possibilities of electronic business.
In the field of growth and technological development of fixed and wireless access networks, we are working towards increasing quality, quantity and diversity of the services. As for wireless services, we are heading towards technological selection to contract and spread third generation technology throughout the country.
In Cuba, not just in the Ministry of Informatics and Communications, but in the government bodies, research institutions and educational centers of different levels, efforts are being made for the study and application of the concepts of knowledge management. Mastering the process under “high technology” production conditions is an urgent task in Cuba according to the scale of its economy and the weight this type of production shall have in our exports.
The socialist character of our society greatly facilitates this aim, but there are still many practical questions to be solved and they require study as well as technological and organizational solutions in the field of production, among others.
The current system of intellectual property has its fundamental base in the registration of commercial brands to defend, in the first place, the investments of large transnational corporations. But it is necessary to take into account that a scientific creation has its base in the cultural, scientific, and technological wealth that has been accumulating during centuries; this is a human heritage, not a private one. Very frequently, a product, an invention or a scientific discovery has embedded into it many pieces of knowledge that may be registered as an exclusive intellectual property, and this brings about costly transactions and protracted negotiations processes, thus obstructing its contribution to the economic development and the social wellbeing of mankind.
The effects of climatic changes on the world level, especially the global warming being produced as a consequence of fossil fuel emissions that are bringing about meteorological phenomena of a more and more severe nature, also present challenges for information technologies and communications in Cuba. More than 15 years ago, on June 12, 1992, during his speech at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Fidel Castro drew attention to the risk of the disappearance of life on this planet when he declared: “It is necessary to point out that consumer societies are fundamentally responsible for the brutal destruction of the environment… [they have] saturated the atmosphere with gases which are changing weather conditions with a catastrophic effect we are already beginning to experience”.
At the present time, that warning has become hard reality. The effects of global warming take shape in lengthy droughts, severe floods, hurricanes of great intensity causing many victims and huge national losses.
The Cuban Ministry of Informatics and Communications is a part of the Civil Defense, strengthening the info-communications with the purpose of perfecting a system that guarantees leadership activities during all phases in the cycle for disaster reduction, early warning and the timely guidance for the population. Work is being done to reduce vulnerability and to increase services with the use of mobile and satellite communications, as well as voice, data and image transmission. The triple blow of hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma in 2008 served as practical experience proving the effectiveness of the MIC presence in those tasks.
An this opportunity, we would like to express the gratitude of the Cuban people and their government for the solidarity and the truly unselfish, humanitarian assistance from countries and governments that we received to quell and alleviate the damages suffered as a consequence of these meteorological phenomena.
Productions of ICTs are developing impulsively. It is necessary to maintain constant and active vigilance over the evolution of this sector whose frontiers move forward from day to day. Nanotechnology and mecatronics are today the latest frontiers. In Cuba, we are closely following the advances being produced in these ICT branches on a world level as part of the program developed by the Center for Advanced Studies, with a responsible approach that includes vigilance over and study of their potential dangers, particularly in the case of nanotechnology.
There is another danger we must face in defending our sovereignty and independence: the purpose of the American Empire, in the words of Zbignew Brzezinski who was a close foreign policy advisor during Barack Obama's presidential campaign, is to promote cultural domination by “supremacy over global communications, popular entertainment and mass culture”.
This approach is included in the “Joint Doctrine for Information Operations of the United States Defense Department”, 2006, according to which US armed forces must maintain “information superiority… to influence, interrupt, corrupt or usurp the decisions of human and automatic adversaries in the aim of protecting ours”.
In this context and in the measure that information technologies and communications are playing a greater role in countries' economic and social lives, the subject of info-communications security concerns us more and more.
“Cyber threats” are getting more sophisticated. From the unwanted email to the viruses that steal identities and money, even coordinated large scale attacks using the networks to destroy the business reputation of a company or to disable an essential state infrastructure. No country is safe; "cyber criminals" attack whenever they like and leave no traces.
Therefore, this type of threat must be fought on a world scale, we must fight it together and use multilateral mechanisms in which all countries, large and small, rich and poor, with greater or lesser technological development, can participate in on an equal footing.
In this respect, we must remember that during the World Summit on Information Societies, the heads of state and governments acknowledged this threat and charged the ITU to implement C5 Action Line, named: "Creating Confidence and Security in the Use of ICTs".
Furthermore, the ITU has launched other initiatives such as the “Global Cybersecurity Agenda” and the “Child Exploitation and Online Protection program”.
We support these ITU initiatives, and we offer our collaboration for the development of them.
I am certain that the exchanges of ideas and experiences taking place in Informática 2009 will thrust us towards developing information and communications technologies to overcome the challenges and difficulties that we face in order to move forward in the defense of sovereignty and independence.
I welcome you once more to our Cuba. I thank you for your presence and for your active participation at the event. We have seen to it that you are made to feel at home here and we are honored to offer you our hospitality which is also part of our contribution to the success of the work being carried out here.
Thank you very much.