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Cuban Government Claims Havana Technology Conference Is 'Cooking Up a Monster'

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Today the Cuban government's official website Cubadebate, whose tagline is "Against Media Terrorism," posted an article titled "The Impossible Innocence of the CLICK Festival." In the title the initials CIA are capitalized in the word "innocenCIA" to make it clear to readers who is supposedly behind this event that begins on June 21, an event organized from here in Havana, by us, local Cubans.

"They are cooking up a subversive monster in Havana," the article begins, going on to inform readers that "Yoani Sanchez, one of the organizers of the event, has openly confessed to promoting capitalism in Cuba" and then claiming that the CLICK Festival site "is a meeting place for counterrevolutionaries conspicuous for their mediocrity."

Far from monstrous (no comment on "mediocre"), the CLICK Festival is technological, not ideological or political, a constructive space to plan for tomorrow.

We encourage all Cubans to attend, and also extend a broad welcome to foreign tourists visiting the Island who want to join us; the doors of the CLICK Festival will be open to you. Your presence will strengthen our visibility and transparency, contributing to the greatest protection we could count on.

Please come any time from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, June 21-23. The location is: #4606 1st Street (Calle 1ra) between 46 and 60, Playa, Havana (or you can show this to your cab driver: Calle 1ra. #4606. Esquina 46 y 60. Playa. Ciudad de La Habana. Cuba)
You will never have a better chance to see the "real" Cuba and engage with Cubans in a welcoming atmosphere.

Following is an interview I did with Jose Luis Antunez, a Spaniard who organized a similar conference in Spain that inspired us with its example of plurality and debate.

Since 2006 you have organized the Spain Blog Event (EBE). What motivates you?

We are motivated and encouraged by the will to serve. To contribute in some way to the use of the web in different sectors of society.

Another fundamental reason was that there wasn't any kind of national conference to analyze blogging and the latest trends on the web in Spain. In the United States, from the early 2000s, they already had these events. And in Europe they are starting to take off. Paris organized "The Blogs" in 2005, now known as "The Web," and this was the trigger for me to try to organize something similar in Spain.

In March of 2006 I met Benito Castro and Luis Rull. I proposed to them the idea of our trying to differentiate ourselves right from the start from the events in other countries, with a very relaxed atmosphere, approachable, family-like. In these two videos you can see the famous "EBE spirit" that many are talking about: Video 1. Video 2.

You were recently in Havana. From a technological standpoint, what most impressed you... positively and negatively?

I was very positively impressed by the hunger for technology that I saw in some people and especially in some university freshmen who are forbidden to connect to the web until they are sophomores.

And what struck me most is that Cuba is a country that is disconnected from the world. Internet access is exceedingly slow, expensive, and available only in some hotels, the universities, in government buildings and in the embassies.

At least cellphones have arrived and despite the high prices of text messages it's a technology in common use.

If right now they shut off your Internet connection at home and on your cell phone, and you had a black-and-white screen Nokia, and a Pentium I PC without access to the web, do you think you would continue to Tweet? To blog? How?

What you pose is one of my worst nightmares. Sadly it is a reality in many countries.

I know you've supported and worked on a festival on technology and social networks that will soon be held here in Cuba. Why don't you tell us about the event.

The CLICK Festival (#FestivalCLIC) was born from a collaboration between several Cuban initiatives such as Estado de Sats, the Blogger Academy... and EBE from Spain, to create in Havana a reference point to evangelize about the use of the web in Cuban society.

The first edition of the CLICK Festival will be held on Thursday June 21 to Saturday June 23 and every Cuban is welcome, regardless of their ideology. The Festival is a technological and inclusive event. We will be talking about new trends in the web, there will be blog workshops, there will be music...

The question about Robinson Crusoe taking his most precious book to an island is now out-dated. What technological object would you take on a one-way trip to Cuba... to that other island of the disconnected?

It would take an iPad full of applications that could be used offline.

How do you see the situation in Spain right now as it relates to the Internet? What are the hottest topics related to Internet use?

For two years I've been very interested in seeing how politicians go after what they call "the Internet vote" without understanding that it doesn't exist. It's as if we said "the vote of the people walking down the street." And this is in Spain, where 60 percent of homes have Internet and 55 percent of people have a smart phone.

If we talk about hot topics from the perspective of a citizen who connects every day, the "fever" for mobile applications is the theme of the year. The "app-economy" is here to stay and is going to generate a great debate: The Internet of the web browser versus the internet of applications in a closed environment.

There is one question very much in vogue now, a question that calls on conspiracy theory and I'm going to ask it... so as to keep up with the times. Who is behind Jose Luis Antunez? That is, who is under the skin, under the Twitter nick and in the depths of the blog and the Skype account of Jose Luis Antunez?

It is a person who every five to six years needs to find new challenges in which design and empathy with the user are the stars of the show: http://jlantunez.com