Who said this? No, it was neither Bush nor Brown, nor Blair, Berlusconi, Balkenende, or Benedict XVIth. It is a liberal translation of “El futuro de nuestra patria tiene que ser necessariamente un futuro de hombres de ciencia”. It was Fidel who said it, back in 1961. This phrase is not only on the front page of the science & tech section of the online version of the Cuban national newspaper, the Granma, but also painted on the first building of the ICA complex (see photo). The ICA—Instituto de Ciencia Animal [Animal Science Institute]—in San Jose de las Lajas, near Habana, is an integrated whole of science, technology, and society, quite different from the common university campuses with spin-offs close by in European and US’s cities’ peripheries. Maybe science researchers and philosophers of science can look into the matter if, and if yes how, this is a more sustainable and effective way of building a knowledge society (what the EU purports to build since the Lisbon Agenda in 2000) than the 3+2+3 streamlining in higher/university education and hidden research institutes. (The Venezuelan government thinks it is a good idea, and they are setting up similarly structured institutes in Venezuela.)
Aside from taking a few days off, I did visit the ICA again (the Agromatica department, headed by Abiel Roche), passed by the University of Havana—the oldest in Latin America that has a fantastic entrance with many stairs and an alma mater sitting at the top—and got informed about the Cuban policy decisions to invest in computer science. Regarding the latter, there’s since 2003 the UCI, the Universidad de Ciencias Informáticas [university of computer science], with some 10000 students, national programmes in computer literacy, and people are working on installing a fibre optics cable to increase bandwidth by some 3000 fold, to name but a few things. The latter obviously implies that, contrary to some ‘regular media’ reports, Cuba is already connected to the Internet and even Jo and Joanne Soap can email and browse the Web; they already could when I visited Cuba in 2004. Admitted, it is not cheap and relatively slow, but possible it is (be it at work, in an internet café, or at home with a modem).
Mobile phones are officially allowed since about 2 months and to my surprise, my lame 3-year old nokia-with-vodafone Italian phone automatically detected Cu_com so I could send messages all around the world (I did not try calling, which is probably mad expensive), which proved to be very useful for meeting with friends at some flexible timing in front of the capitolio, ensuring I made it safe home in Vedado coming from Alamar, and whatnot.
There can be many more things to write about, such as the detrimental effects of recent international biofuels policies and the entry of some of capitalism’s bugs through the tourism sector, but I will close with two announcements. One is for the computer science conference Informática 2009 next February with article submission deadline in August (for those of you who prefer to have an excuse to visit Cuba) and the timely book “The changing dynamic of Cuban civil society” (not that the notion of ‘civil society’ is alive and kicking in Cuba, but it certainly is worth a read nevertheless).