Cuba says few citizens have phones and computers
Thu 26 Jun 2008, 15:49 GMT
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, June 26 (Reuters) - Forget iPods, BlackBerries and other electronic gadgets, most Cubans are still waiting for telephones and less than five percent have a computer, the government reported on Thursday.
The National Statistics Office (http://www.one.cu) released 2007 telecommunications data showing there were 1.241 million telephone lines in the country of 11.2 million inhabitants, of which 910,000 were residential and the remainder in state hands.
Mobile phones numbered just 330,000.
There were 4.5 personal computers per 100 residents, but most of those were in government offices, health facilities and schools.
The report was issued two months after Cuban President Raul Castro legalized the sale of computers and cellphones, though their high cost puts them out of reach of many.
Until the sales were permitted, Cubans mostly obtained computers on the black market and cellphones through foreigners, who have used them in Cuba since the 1990s.
The report said more than 10 percent of the population had access to Internet, but access in most cases is to a Cuban government Intranet and no data was available for access to the full Internet.
The number of telephone lines and computers has doubled since 2002, according to the report, which did not show any cell phones in use then.
By comparison, Latin American neighbor Mexico, with a population of 108 million, has 20 million telephone lines and 50 million cellphone users, according to industry statistics.
World Bank figures showed that in 2006, Mexico had 13.6 computers and 17.5 Internet users for every 100 people.
Cuban officials blame the longstanding U.S. embargo for the country's last place status in the region in communications and point out they are in first place in health and education.
The move to allow computer and cellphone sales was part of reforms by Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel Castro as president in February, aimed at easing economic hardship faced by Cubans.
(Editing by Jeff Franks and Frances Kerry)