The New York Times has a story today about how savvy Cubans are circumnavigating the obstacles erected by their government to limit access the internet by ordinary Cubans: “Yet the government’s attempts to control access are increasinglyineffective. Young people here say there is a thriving black marketgiving thousands of people an underground connection to theworld outside the Communist country.”
I was told the same thing last summer when I was in China. An English speaking Chinese citizen told me that despite the best efforts of the Chinese regime to block access to sites on the internet, he and many others were able to find ways around the censorship. He then demonstrated his knowledge of the weekly primetime television line-up in America. He knew far more than I did.
The hope is that the internet will be one of the mechanisms by which politically oppressed people will be able to access information about the outside world and ultimately demand change from their respective government. As people living in repressive countries become more aware of the political freedoms that exist in other countries, they too will eventually reach a point where they will demand such rights for themselves. Of course, there are many obstacles to winning these much coveted political freedoms, namely the heavily armed tyrannical governments who don’t want to grant them to their citizens.
The NYT ends its story by quoting a Cuban student who expresses hope in this web revolution:
Pedro, a midlevel official with a government agency, said he often surfed Web sites like the BBC and The Miami Herald at work, searching for another view of the news besides the ones presented in the state-controlled media. He predicted that the 10,000 students studying the Internet and programming at the University of Information Sciences would transform the country over time, opening up more and more avenues of information.
“We are training an army of information specialists,” he said.