Steve Grunwell

Open-source contributor, speaker, and coffee snob

A street in Cuba, full of people and vibrant colors

Software for the Greater Good: Apretaste Brings the Internet to Cuba

During SunshinePHP, I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with Salvi Pascual of Miami non-profit Apretaste. Besides talking about the delicious desserts at the speakers’ dinner, Salvi and I chatted about the current state of internet connectivity outside of the United States. He enlighten me to the startling fact that barely 90 miles from where we sat there lives a population where nearly three quarters of the people have no internet connectivity, and of those that do less than 4% have access to anything beyond email.

Imagine if you were living in 2016 with little-to-no access to the internet. No social media. No news from the outside world. No cat videos on YouTube.

Salvi explained the isolation that many Cubans feel, being completely cut off from the world, with what little connectivity available lying firmly in the hands of the wealthy and well-connected.

How Apretaste is making a difference

Apretaste can’t magically introduce ubiquitous internet connectivity in Cuba, but they are working to make the web available to the 2.6 million users who are restricted to email-only access. Users can send an email to Apretaste with their web request, and the service will crawl the requested resource and return accessible, text-based results via email.

As of December 2015, Apretaste is serving 22 thousand unique visitors a month, with over 70 thousand requests to Apretaste services. It’s a small percentage of the population, certainly, but connecting the Cuban people to the world at large can has tremendous potential.

Getting involved

The internet is a big place, far more than a few people can cover, which is why Apretaste has open-sourced the project and its services and is actively looking for contributions. If you’re not the coding type, you can also support Apretaste through tax-deductible donations and help spread the cause on Twitter and Facebook.

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