It’s very difficult to measure the true value of the Internet. It’s not that one Internet search is equal to another in value. Information obtained from the Internet does not always lead to good or bad outcomes, by itself. It is combined with other inputs. And so on.
However, one way of figuring the value of something is to measure what it’s absence means. Looks like Cuba is a living laboratory.
Cuba’s limited Internet access is a source of festering resentment among Cubans, millions of whom have never been online. Some people — medics, for example, or journalists — qualify for a dial-up connection at home. Others use pirated connections, rent time on a neighbor’s line or log on at a hotel, where they pay about $8 an hour. Many trade information on memory sticks or rely on stodgy state-run periodicals for news.
“We are living in the back of a cave,” said Walfrido López, a Cuban blogger and information technology specialist. “People here are asleep, because they don’t have information.”
He added, “Having information is what enables you to make decisions, take positions.”
Government figures indicate 26 percent of Cubans had Internet access last year, but this includes millions who entered only an intranet linked to their work. The International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency for information and communications technology, puts the number of broadband subscriptions in Cuba at 0.04 per 100 inhabitants, or about one in 2,500. That is lower than in Haiti and Sudan, two places that are not considered the least bit tech-friendly.