Wilfredo Gonzalez, Cuba’s Deputy Minister of Communications, has informed the country’s parliament that the island has more than 25,000 ICT professionals.
These individuals, most of whom graduated from local universities, hold the key to computerizing Cuba, he added, according to Cuban news daily Cubadebate.
The minister’s comment came during a discussion over the island’s ICT infrastructure. While the statement represents one of the first times Cuba has talked officially of its tech talent pool, the deputy minister did not reveal the source of the information.
“We must care for young people and contribute to their professional development,” said another parliamentarian Jorge Luis Mazorra, who has recently graduated from Havana’s José Antonio Echeverría University (CUJAE).
Mazorra went on to say there is an urgent need to preserve skilled human talent, adding that many IT professionals had left government agencies and joined private companies.
According to lawmakers, Cubans are accessing the internet like never before, which has changed the way young people in the country are communicating.
“Like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, Cuban youths have also been born in this digital age, and they also like using digital devices for communication and seeking information,” said Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, apparently citing a study by Americas Society, which found the number of social network users in Cuba increased by a staggering 370% in 2016.
There are 630 internet browsing rooms and 370 WiFi hotspots, with the number of web users increasing to 4 million in the past 3 years. Internet speed has increased from 4GB to 8GB per second, according to Communications Minister Maimir Mesa Ramos.
The debate in parliament came in response to the US concern that the communist island is preventing its citizens from accessing the web freely and easily.
But the parliament’s claim stands in contrast to a 2016 report by Freedom House, which said internet access is heavily restricted in Cuba and some applications on social media networks were blocked.