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Does Google is coming to Cuba?

Does Google is coming to Cuba?

Posted by Juan Gavasa on March 14, 2015

It marked the second trip to the island by executives of the Internet-related services and products, computer software and telecoms equipment giant, following a visit last summer by a Google delegation headed by Chairman Eric Schmidt.

The visitors met with a large group of students and professors at Havana's University of Information Sciences, or UCI, Iroel Sanchez wrote in a post titled "Google in Cuba Again: New Ideas?" and uploaded Friday to his "Sleepless Eye" blog.

The author said he learned of the delegation's presence on the Communist-ruled island while giving a speech at that same institution of higher education.

The Google executives also visited the Jose Antonio Echeverria University City and a youth computer and electronics club in the Cuban capital, he added.

During the exchange at the UCI, it emerged that some Google Play applications, which supposedly had been unblocked late last year, are still not available on the island, Sanchez said.

The services that remain unavailable from Cuban IP addresses include Google Earth and Google Developers, the latter of which is essential for software development.

Sanchez said the company was asked if it would be willing to sell UCI-developed video games for mobile devices on its Google Play app store, but the executives said that is not possible at the moment.

He added that they also were unreceptive to two other proposals by UCI professors - collaboration on video games as a tool for rehabilitating visual function and on a simulator to train doctors to combat Ebola that could be further developed with the Google Glass tool.

But they did accept an invitation by UCI for a Google technician to give a speech at a free software event next year at the university, the blogger said.

After Havana and Washington announced plans last December to restore full diplomatic ties, the United States adopted a series of measures to ease its decades-old trade embargo on the island, including facilitating access to telecommunications infrastructure that will improve access to the Internet.

Only a small number of academics, journalists and other professionals in Cuba currently have access to the Web from their homes, while the remainder of the population must use Internet cafes where the hourly rate is $4.50 per hour, an exorbitantly high price in a country where the average salary is between $20 and $30 a month.

Havana, which blames its technological backwardness on the embargo, has said it is open to exploring mutually beneficial business partnerships with American tech and telecommunications companies in the wake of the recent thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Major U.S. companies such as Netflix and Apple have already launched some of their services on the island.

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