Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, and several others visited Cuba to promote open internet access, according to Reuters. The blog/online newspaper 14ymedio.com is the original source of the story.
There were no official statements by Google or the Cuban government. According to Reuters, only 2.6 of more than 11 million in Cuba have internet access. It’s apparently concentrated in tourist hotels and related areas.
Schmidt and Cohen are co-authors of “The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses and Our Lives.” The book has received positive though somewhat mixed reviews. It’s a generally upbeat view of technology and its potential to impact people’s lives positively. However the equation of internet access and democracy isn’t axiomatic.
For example the Islamic militants (ISIL/ISIS) who just declared a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria are very effectively using social media for Jihad and propaganda purposes. This is similar to the way that China has managed to institute capitalism while still maintaining a repressive authoritarian regime. Capitalism was viewed in the West at one time as synonymous with democracy.
Nonetheless, Schmidt and his entourage are traveling the globe preaching the gospel of the internet. On balance free access to information is better than its opposite.
In countries outside of “The West” Google is generally regarded by activists as a progressive force. In Europe and North America, to a lesser degree, Google is often seen by critics as a self-interested corporate behemoth and rarely (now) as a force for good in society.
Reuters reported that “The Google delegation in Havana met with students and was given a tour of Havana’s University of Information Sciences on Saturday.”