Global Voices Summit: The End-User Perspective

Robert Guerra is particularly interested in the perspective of end-users. Namely, what technologies do people really use? What challenges do they encounter? What recommendations can we formulate? Robert used Cuba as a case study to address these questions.

For Internet access, one needs to go to government-run or mobile-phone company Internet cafes. These are often closed and include physical surveillance. There is only one Internet cafe where registration is not required but the wait is often up to two hours to get a free machine. Access to the Internet is via dial-up, hence very slow. Key tracing and related spy software are on all Internet cafe machines in Cuba. This makes Torbrowser and Psiphon somewhat useless. USB sticks can be used but not all machines may allow for USB access.  For a blog specfically on the use of USBs in Cuba, please click here. The connection in Cuban universities is particularly slow given the small bandwidth and large number of users. Internet access is available at international hotels but at exhorbitant prices. Not only is there technical surveillance, but also very widespread human surveillance.


Robert’s recommendations include taking a bottom-up approach: consult local users; needs assessment; technical assessment (internet & security issues). Provide skills training and training materials. Monitor and assess sustained use.

The Q & A session included additional recommendations such as the use VPNs and trust building. Some teenagers in Cuba have also set up long distance WIFI to play Internet games but some of these have been shut down and these teenagers are not in the least inclined to blog. Bringing in foreign trainers can put trainees in danger. In my opinion, this is where the field of nonviolent action has alot to offer in terms of providing strategies, lessons learned and best practices on how to manage one’s immediate security environment from a hands-on, operational and tactical perspective. So my recommendation would be for more cross-disciplinary dialogue between activist bloggers, nonviolent movements, technology designers and technology developers.

Patrick Philippe Meier

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