An Improved U.S.-Cuba Relationship: What It Could Mean for Tech
When I first heard the news on Dec. 17 that the United States will finally begin working to normalize relations with Cuba after more than 50 years of an American embargo, I began thinking about the story I've been looking forward to writing since I visited that amazing country for 10 days in October 1992.
You are now reading that story.
As an American journalist visiting Cuba some 22 years ago, I still have images in my head of the splendor of its people and of its cities and beaches, while also recalling the poverty, the outdated and worn-out infrastructure, and the lack of quality consumer goods just about everywhere I traveled.
I visited Havana, Santiago de Cuba and the beaches at Varadero a few short years before the Internet and computers began appearing in homes in the U.S., and in the years that have followed I have often thought about all that would finally come to this island nation once the dreaded embargo would end.
That day could be here in the near future, and I am marveling at what might happen next.
For decades, I have imagined U.S. technology companies opening new markets in Cuba and bringing in products that Cubans have only been able to dream about until now. Yes, Cuban incomes are meager and the normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations will certainly take some time to occur, but that Cubans could at some point soon buy American products on their home soil without government intervention is a tantalizing and amazing possibility.
For U.S. technology companies, this will potentially mean that many of Cuba's 11 million residents will someday want to buy their products when they can afford them. Because of that, U.S. companies might want to open offices or stores or factories in Cuba. And that could mean jobs for Cubans that pay better wages, which could give them money that they might use to buy American products in the future.
You've certainly heard about and seen the photographs of many Cubans who are still driving 1950s American cars that remained after the embargo began, never to be replaced with new vehicles from Detroit in the embargo's aftermath. But those cars aren't just old cars. They are a testament to the creativity, tenaciousness and inventive spirit of the Cuban people, who always found ways of keeping old technologies alive until better days would someday arrive.
That someday might be here soon.
I see those old Chevys, Plymouths and Fords on the streets of Havana as an indicator of the promise of tomorrow, when Cubans will finally be able to be just as creative using the latest high-tech tools and software, rather than re-engineering life into old worn-out cars.
For both of nations, the normalizing of U.S. and Cuban relations is something we should embrace, nurture and grow. That goes for U.S. tech companies as well. A new potential market is out there for them to explore. It's about time.