Cuba is building out its information technology (IT) ecosystem leveraging its world regarded model on knowledge and intellectual assets in its build out.
The communist-led Caribbean state is turning to IT in the midst of its worst economic crisis in 30 years and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cuban Government is trying to update its technology policy and approach to innovation, promoting science and technology parks, which is seen as a novel addition to its new economic strategy.
Nearshore Americas is reporting that Cuba’s knowledge and intellectual assets, which have been used as sources of competitiveness and long-term economic growth, is now being exploited in the drive of building out a world-class IT ecosystem. As a result the Havana Science and Technology Park, headquartered at the University of Computer Sciences (UCI), is set to become a prominent innovation ecosystem on the island.
Cuba’s centralised economic planning has had an over-reliance on tourism, remittances and the export of medical services at the expense of technological innovation, which has been sideline in some respect but a change is coming. This change will see the Havana Science and Technology Park playing a key role in the IT ecosystem build out.
The park, inaugurated in 2020, plans to operate as an incubator, efficiently integrating universities, research centres, foreign capital, local start-ups as well as State resources. The park has already signed around 40 projects prioritising strategic areas such as big data and data analytics, the electronics industry, cybersecurity, energy efficiency and solutions for health care and the pharmaceutical industry.
Sandra Madiedo, a Havana-based digital strategy consultant and founder of Archipiélago Startapero, explains that, “the park tries to provide an umbrella for all the high-tech projects developed by UCI’s faculty, alumni and students.”
Madiedo, who has been following the park’s development since its opening, emphasised that, “the park will reach small private start-ups as well, providing a legal, flexible framework with adequate infrastructure to incubate all kinds of businesses and produce high-value products and services.”
Nearshore America reports that Cuba is known for having an underground outsourcing ecosystem with an endless supply of developers, who provide services to foreign clients. This previously informal service provision arrangement is now being formalised with the help of the science and technology park, which is providing the space and professional surroundings for these types of technology services and jobs.
Foreign companies are already taking advantage of the opportunity to hire local IT talent in Cuba. One such case is that of SMaBiT, a European company, which became the first international client at the science and technology park.
SMaBiT develops integrated hardware for smart home sensors, industrial gateways and security cameras, as well as network platforms for the management of IoT devices and video analysis. Local companies are seizing the opportunities being made available in the IT field through the Havana Science and Technology Park.
It has reached an agreement with AlaSoluciones, a local private company developing technological solutions for agriculture, security and other industries, has elevated the expectations about the park’s potential to generate high impact products. Other signups include EMSI Farma, which works on the automation of already existing processes, particularly in health care.
The small, Havana-based company developed the main software behind the ventilators used in Cuba to treat COVID-19 patients. The park offers similar opportunities and conditions to other initiatives of its kind in Latin America and the Caribbean.