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Cuba allows Internet access at Home, a rarity in a Country with one of the lowest Internet penetration Rates in the World

About 5 percent of Cubans are estimated to enjoy internet at home, which requires government permission

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Retired teacher Margarita Marquez, 67, uses the internet after it was recently installed at her home in old Havana, Cuba, Dec. 29, 2016. (VOA)

Downtown Havana resident Margarita Marquez says she received a special Christmas gift this year: web access at home, a rarity in a country with one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world.

Marquez, a 67-year-old retired university professor, was among those selected by the government two weeks ago to participate in a pilot project bringing the web into the homes of 2,000 inhabitants of the historic center of the island’s capital.

Most of Communist-ruled Cuba’s 11.2 million inhabitants have access to internet only at Wi-Fi hotspots, and only then if they can afford the $1.50 hourly tariff that represents around 5 percent of the average monthly state salary.

About 5 percent of Cubans are estimated to enjoy internet at home, which requires government permission. This is usually granted mainly to academics, doctors and intellectuals.

A dream come true, until March

“It’s like a dream come true,” said Marquez, who lives with her sister in a second-story flat in a colonial-era building. “To be in touch with the outside world is important.”

Her 80-year-old sister, Leonor Franco, said the news that they had been selected came as a surprise and she was excited to be surfing the web for the first time.

“I had never had any experience of internet,” she said, seated in front of a laptop she has owned for two years without web access, searching for videos of her favorite singers on YouTube.

She said she wanted to learn how to surf the web properly so she could make the most of the experiment, and for as long as the government provided free internet access.

“From March we will have to start paying and we don’t know if we will be able to continue. So at least we are going to enjoy January and February,” she said.

Cost drops but still high

While the cost of internet has dropped in recent years, it is still prohibitive for most Cubans.

Cuba says it has been slow to develop network infrastructure because of high costs in part because of the U.S. trade embargo. Critics say the real reason is fear of losing control.

Before Wi-Fi signals became available last year, broadband internet access had been limited largely to desktops at state internet parlors and pricy hotels.

However, the government has said it wants to ensure everyone has access and has installed 237 Wi-Fi hotspots so far. In September, it announced it would install Wi-Fi along Havana’s picturesque seafront boulevard, the Malecon.

“There are many places now where you can go and sit and connect along the Malecon,” said Eliecer Samada as he sat on the stone wall lining the boulevard, checking social media on his phone. “We’re happy with this.” (VOA)

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President Uhuru Insists No Extra Money, Calls for End to County Funds Standoff

President Kenyatta says Members of Parliament should act quickly to ensure that counties get their share of the available funds

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File image of President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi. PHOTO| PSCU

By Geoffrey Isaya

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday called on the National Assembly and the Senate to end the stalemate over the Division of Revenue Bill 2019 to allow the release of funds to counties.

He said Members of Parliament should act quickly to ensure that counties get their share of the available funds because any further delay will deny Kenyans the services they need.

The President, however, reminded MPs that the Government does not have unlimited resources and should bear in mind that what the National Government has been allocating to counties is much higher than the threshold set by the Constitution.

“The Constitution says we give a minimum of 15 per cent to counties. Within one year I took it to over 30 per cent,” said the President as he called on modesty and honesty in demands for more allocations for counties.

“Why can you not pass the Bill so that people can get services. Reach an agreement so that we can release funds to counties,” said the President.

The President said the country does not have unlimited resources and leaders should not act as if money flows freely and that Kenya’s “resources are unlimited.”

The Head of State said leaders also need to change their attitudes and understanding of devolution because the system of governance does not stand for competition between different levels of government.

“It is two systems of Government complementing each other to deliver services for the people,” said the President.

President Kenyatta
President Kenyatta at the same time called on elected leaders to go slow on politics and concentrate on service delivery.

He said devolution as a system of government is working for Kenyans and what is needed is for leaders to change their approach to leadership.

“I want to acknowledge my belief that devolution is working. What we need now is to focus on the agenda of delivering for the people who put us in leadership,” said the President.

The Head of State spoke after he officially opened the Ugatuzi Plaza that houses the Nakuru County Assembly Chamber.

He said elected leaders owe a debt to the electorate and the only way to repay them is to deliver services to them.

The President said he was impressed by the refurbishment and expansion of the Ugatuzi Plaza while also commending Nakuru MCAs for putting the interests of the people before theirs after revelations that the grassroots leaders had resolved not to use county funds on foreign travel.

President Kenyatta at the same time called on elected leaders to go slow on politics and concentrate on service delivery.

He said peace and unity are very important for the progress of the country because investors will put their money where there is safety.

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“Help me to bring Kenyans together. In me you have a partner in development,” said the President who addressed MCAs during a session inside the County Assembly chamber.

The session was also addressed by Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, Senator Susan Kihika and ex-Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama among other leaders.