Cuba open to US tech companies

President Obama’s recently trip to Cuba has opened the door for US based internet companies to do business with the island.

Obama’s visit is the first by a US president since the communist revolution of 1959. Since 1962, the US has imposed trade and travel restrictions that have kept US based companies out of Cuba. But since 2008, the Bush and Obama administrations have overseen a slow return to diplomatic relations with Cuba. Now that there is more communication between the two countries, industry experts are concerned about a virtual land grab by companies like Google and Airbnb.

During the President’s visit to Cuba, he announced that Google would be expanding wi-fi in Cuba. Other companies like Airbnb and Bookings.com are also looking to take advantage of the thawing climate between the US and Cuba. These US companies are attracted to Cuba’s lucrative tourism industry, and are quickly trying to claim their stake in this new market. The time is ripe for these technology companies to take advantage of the coming opportunities.

Cubans have limited access to the internet. Only about 25 percent of the population is currently online and only a little over 12 percent of the households have a computer at home. This is expected to shift as Google provides more wi-fi and broadband access across the country.

Airbnb has been operating for about a year already, allowing Americans to book accomodations in Cuba. Although technically travel to Cuba has been illegal except under special circumstances, 161,000 Americans were among the 3.5 million tourists from all over the world who visited Cuba last year. Commercial flights are expected to resume in the fall, giving way to a larger market for sites like Bookings.com. In the coming weeks, its parent company Priceline will begin allowing US customers to book vacations in Havana and plans to sign deals with existing hotels and tourism countries.

Article via Cnet, 21 March 2016

Photo: Press conference, Havana by IIP Photo Archive [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Obama orders development of smart gun technology

President Obama submitted a memorandum on Monday in which he ordered the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to develop smart gun technology.  This technology includes fingerprint and radio-frequency identification, which serve to track guns and prevent accidental shootings. The president made a deadline of 90 days for the agencies to create a list of recommendations.

According to a statement by President Obama,  gun sales rocketed following the San Bernardino shooting. In a more recent memorandum, Obama spoke about executive actions he took to curb gun violence and urged the nation to have a “sense of urgency” about the issue.

In reference to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 students and six teachers, Obama said, “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”

Obama’s initiatives intend to end the “gun show loophole” that allows gun dealers and hobbyists to sell at gun shows and online without verifying background checks. Guns rights groups will most likely resist the expansion of background checks and the new effort to develop smart gun technology. Many of these groups claim that smart technology is a means by which the government could track firearms, which would eventually lead to a ban on weapons.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Chris Cox said that the NRA would now let “law-abiding gun owners to become scapegoats for President Obama’s failed policies.”

In his memorandum, Obama referenced a 2013 Department of Justice report that discussed how to effectively use gun safety technologies, which included a required owner fingerprint scan before the gun could discharge.

“In its report, the (DOJ) made clear that technology advancement in this area could help reduce accidental deaths and the use of stolen guns in criminal activities,” he said.

Article via CNET, 4 January 2016

Photo: Mauser 1934 by PRO Keary O.

[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]