For some time now, our nation has been immersed in various processes of developing computerized technologies. However, the terms and concepts associated with these scopes are not always explicitly clarified and defined. For not a few people, but in a country where population aging is a reality, many of the concepts and possibilities that such progress brings are not entirely clear.
For this reason, Word New came in search of a specialized opinion to address some of these issues. Telecommunications engineer Daniel Hernandez, with long-standing experience in his work, kindly agreed to the dialogue with our magazine. We appreciate your collaboration for our pages and hope that your words and opinions will bring more knowledge and clarity about these topics.
What would be the concept of computerization of society?
“There are many theorizations on the subject, especially on the technological side. If you go to the concept of society we can say, in an elementary way, that it is a set of people who are governed by a group of rules established by themselves. When you base the functioning and development of this group on the use of different computer and technology means, then you come to the notion of a computerized society, an information society or the knowledge society, because different names are used. It’s about everything that works, somehow has an associated technological component. That’s going to transform people’s lives and the processes of that society. The ultimate goal is to reach a more efficient society in all its areas.”
You’re talking to me about information, but I want to see it beyond the personal ability to receive or communicate news.
“Yes, but remember that, in terms of computing, information is a much broader concept that refers not only to the one you can read or generate, but to all types of file, data transmissions. Every service, even if it may not look like it, has an information component between machines that runs back and forth.
“Look, I give you a very simple example. You’re a father with two children. For convenience you are supposed to have your children in a school as close as possible, in short… As a parent you should keep an eye on everything, go regularly, attend how the course is going… All of this entails an expense of time, your energy and your resources, which you can’t then spend at work or in other functions.
“A computerized society makes that process much more efficient. You grab your phone, connect with the school and check a website, without moving from your work center, you know if your child was in school or not, what classes they touch that day, what tasks he has to do, all that. That moves through a volume of data, which in the end is information, in this case related to the education process, within all that society can have. Such communication with the school, to a certain degree, can flow through the use of technology. That is a minimal example, of a part of society, of all that can be done.”
To land the idea, think of our non-specialized readers, let’s look for a concept, even if it’s walking. A computerized society helps you solve a certain number of needs, through a certain computerized technological structure
“At least you can solve a good part of those needs. As good as you can. Look, in a society, all processes can be computerized. With more or less time, to a greater or lesser degree, but all can be done.”
Los mandados del mes los pides a la OFICODA por computadora y te los mandan a la casa…
“Sí, sí, algo así. Hoy el comercio electrónico en el mundo es una realidad. En mínima escala, a nivel personal, básicamente lo que sucede es que a través de una plataforma electrónica tú escribes a una tienda, revisas un catálogo, compras desde tu casa y los productos te llegan a la puerta. Ni siquiera tienes que salir a buscarlos. A ver, no es que te robotices, siempre querrás tocar una fruta fresca, habrá determinado producto que quieres ir y verlo… Pero un equipo electrónico, que no se madura ni se pudre, que siempre es el mismo y ya tú sabes cuál es el modelo, de qué tipo, de qué color, pues lo pides a la tienda y lo recibes. Si no te gusta lo mandas de vuelta y te devuelven el dinero. Es un funcionamiento muy diferente al nuestro, pero es así.
”En lo que se concentra ese tema es que vas dejando de perder el tiempo en cosas que tienen una solución tecnológica, informatizada, y te centras en aportar más a la sociedad. Lo que hace falta es que no pierdas el tiempo, tu tiempo de trabajar y de aportar a la sociedad, yendo a la OFICODA a anotarte para recibir los mandados, yendo más de una vez porque la persona no vino, porque algo falló, porque falta un cuño, esos líos. Cuando eso ocurre y estás pendiente de muchas situaciones, todo eso va en detrimento de tu aporte, de tu trabajo, de lo que produces”.
En la sociedad moderna viajan las informaciones y no las personas…
“Funciona en los dos sentidos. Cada vez la movilidad de las personas es mucho mayor. Claro, en una sociedad conectada, informatizada, puedes viajar a muchos lugares, hacer mucho, sin salir de tu casa. Tú eres profesor en la Universidad de la Habana y puedes tutorear la tesis de un alumno de la Universidad de Las Villas. No tienes que ir a Santa Clara todos los días, puedes hacer todo el proceso desde tu casa. A través de la tecnología se pueden ver, se puede discutir, podrías hasta hacer la defensa sin ir allí. Hay tecnologías que te permiten hacer esto en tiempo real. Las personas ahora optimizan las funciones para las que se viaja, cuando es muy necesario estar presente. La tecnología te permite, sin dejar de atender un grupo de cosas, poder dedicarte también a otras”.
Eres más eficiente.
“Claro, pero fíjate, que la sociedad esté conectada implica también que a veces trabajas más. Ya el tiempo de trabajo no son las ocho horas donde antes ibas a la oficina y ya. Quizás con menos esfuerzo, pero trabajas más. Ahora estarías disponible casi las 24 horas”.
Hazme una traducción del idioma técnico al castellano y dime qué infraestructura hace falta para lograr un estatus así. ¿Es espantosamente caro, es un sueño de países desarrollados, se puede informatizar el Tercer Mundo?
“Todos los países tienen la misma capacidad de informatizarse, la misma posibilidad, digamos con más precisión. Es verdad que es un proceso caro, porque las tecnologías llevan dinero, ahí no hay de otra. Pero una vez que tú logras establecer determinadas estructuras, cuando aplicas la tecnología, entonces empiezas a dejar de gastar dinero en otras cosas. Es una redistribución del dinero. Qué pasa, tienes que empezar poco a poco, como han empezado todos los países. Debes ir informatizando áreas, crear proyectos, interconectar poco a poco, hasta que vas creando una gran plataforma de comunicaciones. Lo primero que necesitas es conexión a una red”.
Una red es un número de computadoras conectadas entre sí para lograr determinado fin…
“Exacto. De hecho, hay un tema importante en ese concepto. Cuando se habla de sociedad informatizada, las personas de inmediato piensan en el acceso a Internet. Son dos ideas completamente diferentes. Tú puedes tener una red, para informatizar una sociedad, para solucionar un problema determinado y no necesariamente debes conectarte a Internet. Porque muchas veces tú lo que necesitas es proveer servicios locales, cuando te digo locales piensa a nivel de municipio o de país, para solucionar necesidades entre entidades o personas ubicadas en un contexto geográfico distante entre sí. A nivel personal, tu OFICODA está en Luyanó o en Santiago de Cuba y tú puedes acceder a ella. Tú no necesitas una red que salga a la Internet para resolver tus mandados, solo necesitas una conexión local que te lleve a ese lugar.
”Ahora, construir una red puede ser muy caro o muy barato, depende de lo que necesites, del alcance, de las prestaciones de la red… Hay muchos tipos de redes, para resolver muchos tipos de servicios”.
There’s something that can help, in economic terms. Doesn’t that technology devalue too quickly, just because it develops so fast? Doesn’t it then take down what’s no longer the latest model?
“That’s a bit of a misleading concept, because the media, the computers, the phones, that does get low when a new one comes out. A new phone has more stuff, more dolls, but you can talk to one or the other the same, whether it’s older or newer. But networks, communication infrastructures are designed to last longer, they can’t be changed every year, that doesn’t change that fast. What is done is a process of integration of technologies, not changes. As something modernizes, you integrate that new technology into the infrastructure you already have, until you completely modernize it. In practice it is an endless, infinite process, because science advances and new techniques continue to appear.”
How complicated and expensive is all this for a poor, underdeveloped country?
“The big problem goes through human resources, because you need a highly trained staff to execute everything we talk about. There are underdeveloped countries without large budgets for education, clear advanced education is there, to train train trained staff. You can buy solutions made, but the development comes from generating local and own capacity to solve your needs. That is the great challenge, to train technically trained people committed to the development of their country.
“Once that’s done, you have to take care of the job market where those staff move. That market can’t be poor, underpaid, so your professionals don’t go elsewhere in the world. Because, in addition, basically equipment, technologies are becoming more standardized, so you can change a team, a brand, but if you master knowledge, you can exercise anywhere.”
Would there be poor solutions, in technological terms?
“There are, but you always have to make an initial investment. Now, the poor need to know very well where the money is spent. They have to buy once and what you buy will do for you. You can’t afford to spend on solutions so poor they don’t last you. If you have five weights and buy a shoe of weight, which lasts you two days, in ten days you end up without money and without shoes. It’s better to buy you the start of five, which is going to last you longer. You don’t have to go to supertechnology, but you can find a middle ground that allows you to move forward.
“On the issue of solutions there is another aspect, which also has to do with human resources. You managed to prepare a technical staff, you have it, you are ready to take on the process of computerizing your society. However, the person leading these processes has to know what he is doing, he cannot be a politically correct official, however good his intentions may be. Because if you don’t listen to those who know, if you get tangled up in a series of commitments, obligations and solutions outside the process, you end up throwing away the money and you don’t solve anything. You need a group that masters all the specialties that have to do with those processes, that draws strategies. There must be technicians there, but also economists, sociologists… From the planned investments of the country, I do not know, from the profit of three hotels that were made, you start to feed that project, to create small areas, to unite all that. You don’t have to start with a network the size of the country, it’s creating islands, little by little…”.
The ultimate goal would always be to bring it all together. The OFICODA with the pharmacy and with the store…
“That’s the goal, but you have to start knowing that you have to unite them. That idea, however small the beginning, has to accompany you from the beginning. Since you start, your goal has to be to get to that, for everything to come to life.
“If you don’t have that vision, what happens to you today in many places. You take a computer to OFICODA, and its use, from a computer point of view, ends up playing or as a typewriter. You make a document on that computer, you print it, you have to look for who puts the cuño and in the end you store it in a file. If you start the process and don’t follow it, it doesn’t make sense.
“If there is a group of OFICODAS, your idea should be to join them, store all the data, make a database database with all the information, with multiple entries, with records of supplies, warehouse controls, customers, their age ranges, who entered, who is low… There’s a whole group of actions you can generate from the information you have. That information, in real time, because your economy works in real time, serves you to make plans, to improve all the functioning, to know what to buy next year, how many inhabitants I have, how old they are… Today you need to have a lot of information for almost every process.”
Let’s land in Cuba. Do deciders and prospective users, how far are they aware of these notions and know of their potential?
“Look, from the most common user, the focus in Cuba is aimed at having the Internet to connect with the family. Here is now what should have happened forty years ago with the phone. Today there is still no phone in every family. If everyone had a phone, for forty years, talking to anyone was normal. Since that didn’t happen, as many people have gone, suddenly there is a vacuum of personal communication. That’s what people care about most. That’s people’s day-to-day life, because, in many cases, that communication guarantees the material support of the family living on the side here.
“That means that the few technological resources we have are used in ways that are not entirely efficient and rather based in the first place on resolving personal and family communication, not for professional uses. Sure, that can be combined. This personal use generates real income for the country. Selling these services brings you money that could be used to build other solutions and advance the computerization of other processes. That can be a strategy. Now, that strategy is not based much on time, because there is a demand that will continue to be directed at those personal goals, as long as people do not solve their lives. Today you can connect in the parks, to talk to the family. However, for professional uses, you can’t be in a park. Having a connection, local or international, has to be seen from a normal approach, being connected must be as normal in the world as possible.”
How far are we from computerizing our society?
“Far away. And it’s not just about infrastructure. If Google comes and tomorrow makes a communication network for the whole country and creates that infrastructure that would be a tremendous step forward. Google’s interest would be for everyone to connect to the Internet, that’s their business. But that’s not where it ends. Once you have that network, you’d have to boost your own services, which the country needs. These solutions should be being developed from now on by those thousands of graduates we have. That was a great investment, an achievement, but if you don’t take care of those human resources and you go to a hotel, a palate, a cell phone business, you twore the money and you didn’t solve your problems.
“On the other hand, here is a concept of state monopoly. That ends the possibilities of competition and development. If there’s only one company, everything is done one way, whether it’s right or not, it works right or wrong, but you’re captive and you can’t move to another. A single company cannot cover all fields, even in a small country like ours. A company carrying fixed telephony, mobile telephony, data, etc., in the end is not efficient on any of the three terrains. If there aren’t many people working on an issue, there’s only one vision and there’s no development.”
If you had a responsibility to carry out the whole process, how would you do it.
“You have to change a lot of things. I’m not even talking about the political system, I’m talking about change of thought, about institutional and mental structures. Technology is no stranger to the organization of society and the way our society works is not efficient. There should be fifty communications companies, and that number is little, that they were working, developing projects, researching. You have to do pretty much everything here. There are small islands that have been created, in the medical sector, in education, but one of our mental problems is the fact of working on farms. I’m from this and I don’t get out of there. The idea is not to make a profit and improve only your sector, but to have a global vision, depending on the whole country. You have to break those closed ideas. The goal must be to unite those possibilities and be based on anyone, everyone.
“When we talk about computerization of society here that includes only a few institutions and that’s a long way from what that process would really be. The one who has to develop that is people, people. You’d have to participate, as a citizen. You’re the one with the needs, and you need to say what you’re interested in fixing, you can’t sit around and wait for someone else. It is the other way around the process, it is the people who have to participate and develop what they want as a society and that the technicians then build that. The same thing that has happened now, that very interesting ideas have come out on the discussion of the draft Constitution, which emerge criteria, that a state of opinion is created, that same should be done according to technologies, the needs that people have.”
Can individual projects contribute to all this? Wouldn’t this fragmentation make the country vulnerable?
“Cuba is a country that has had a history of real aggression, but sometimes computer security is handled with certain levels of radicalism. People, not institutions, should actively participate in everything related to development, and consequently the protection of cyberspace. Of course, there are certain institutions that do deal with national security and so on, those are special bodies and that’s their job. But that work can’t go against the development of society, you can’t, to protect yourself, stop using technology, because then it doesn’t work, you can’t protect yourself. If your potential enemies are just the ones with the greatest technological development in these respects, there’s no way to defend yourself from that. The only way is for you to master all that technology at the same level, to be mastered by everyone, every person, not just those special security forces.
“On an individual level, the following happens. Let’s say I have a group of engineers who want to develop a particular project that interests them. So you’re going to check it out and they say no, that to develop that it’s just like a state-owned company. These companies, in the end, do not and the refusal deprives you of the legal capacity to do something, besides killing you the enthusiasm and the desire to contribute. In short, nothing is done, ely on an individual level, or on the state level. What would make you vulnerable is for things to be done in a hidden way. If I can develop a technology, an idea, because I ask for a license and pay a tax, as is done all over the world, but the execution of the idea in the end results in our development, in our capabilities. That way, security managers are no strangers to what is done. The best way to achieve that development is to have a lot of people working.
“Technology allows you to do a lot of things today and there is always a level of risk, the risks are not fictitious. Now, the concept that is handled is that of reasonable security. You can’t spend a million protecting a house where there’s just a Caribbean TV inside. There’s no point in protecting yourself by limiting the use of technology or demonizing it. That’s why the more people know and understand technology, security becomes more popular, there’s a safer use of all that technique. The use of technologies has to reach people, such as breathing or drinking water, and not as something special.” Ω