Google is the latest company to expand its reach into Cuba during President Obama's historic visit to the long-isolated island nation.
Just yesterday Airbnb announced it would begin allowing users from all over the world to book a rental in Cuba come April. Bookings.com is also expanding its hotel booking services in the country. And now Google has announced that it is in the "early stages" of bringing high-speed Internet access to Cuba-–a country where only 5% of the population is currently online.
Writing in a blog post announcing the news, Cuba lead of Google Access Brett Perlmutter revealed that the company is exploring "possibilities around increasing and improving Internet access, but they’re at early stages." To start with, however, Google is partnering with the Museo Orgánico Romerillo in Havana to feature Google products including Cardboard and Chromebooks connected to the government’s ETECSA carrier network.
"We hope this installation will enable people for whom Internet access is scarce to browse the web and find information," Perlmutter said. "We’re excited that Cuban children will be able to try out virtual reality to explore sites from around the world—from Stonehenge to Port Hercule—the same way that children in other countries do."
Internet access is slowly growing on the island, thanks to Cuban government initiatives to bring increased broadband services to some homes in Havana and government-authorized free public Wi-Fi in select locals, reports the Associated Press. Those initiatives, combined with those from Google and other Internet companies, could radically change the way the Cuban people get information in the years ahead.
"We know, from the experience of many countries around the world, that new technologies and improved Internet access can help people in their daily lives, provide new information and experiences, and help harness a country’s creativity and ingenuity," Perlmutter said. "We hope to have the chance to offer more services to the Cuban people in the future."