> Dave Wald
> An Update on USA/Cuba InfoMed
>The story of USA/Cuba InfoMed, from May 1995 to the present, is one of
>a successful humanitarian aid project initiated and operated by a 100%
>volunteer force based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dave Wald first spoke
>about the project to TASC in the fall of 1995.
>In May 1995 Dr. Juan Reardon and Engineer David Wald visited the National
>Center for Medical Sciences Information and learned about the creation
>of the national telemedicine network, InfoMed. They learned that the UN
>Development Programme had provided file servers but that they were on
>their own to obtain terminals for thousands of users in the medical
>system. Reardon and Wald undertook the task of supplying InfoMed with
>PCs for use as terminals. To date, the volunteer group founded by the pair,
>USA/Cuba InfoMed, has shipped off 1,400 computer systems plus peripheral
>equipment (network cards, printers, etc.) The last shipment of 500 systems
>arrived by ship in Havana on September 2, 1999. We continue to support
>Cuba's public health system with material aid, but we also work to help
>end the embargo on the island nation.
Dave Wald has sent many shipping containers of computers to Cuba. All of the computers were donated free by corporations that were in the process of upgrading. Congressman Tom Campbell (R) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D) have been quite helpful in getting permission to send computers directly to the Cuban Government, even though there is a major embargo in place.
The operating system they use for these systems is Linux. This is partly because they couldn't get export licenses for Windows, but also because Linux does the job well. Wald had an excellent anecdote about having an InfoMed staffer from Cuba come to the Bay Area for a Linux World Conference. Since then the guy has been saying "Going to Silicon Valley for me was like going to the Vatican for a Religious Catholic."
There were many battles with the U.S. Governments bureaucracy that had to be fought to make this project happen. At one point the first shipment of computers was impounded for six months. Wald told several stories that illustrated the point that if you are determined to get goods into Cuba, the embargo can be reduced to a paper tiger. There are many volunteer organizations that are willing to provide things like legal services for free to groups like his.
Because Cuba does not have a large installed base of computer systems, training was a big part of the project. However, the Cuban people are clever and sophisticated, so the network is now up. It provides a virtual Medical Library, email connections for medical offices, and even an Internet presence, cubaweb.cu. When they started on the project they thought that 800 computers would be enough, but now it is clear that even 8000 will not saturate the marketplace.