Tag Archives: development

What We Talk About when We Talk About Development

Posted by Sam Kellogg — MA candidate in Media, Culture, and Communications at NYU. This post was written in the summer of 2017, based on research funded by the Tinker Grant. 

On paper, and according to many observers, the Cuban Internet is many years behind the times, behind the curve. In a formal sense, and according to a linear development model in which countries must develop one step after another along a set path, this is true. Infrastructure is certainly lacking, though this is changing—new fiber-optic cables have been laid in Habana Vieja and new public (though not free—see my previous blog post) wifi hotspots and Internet cafes have been opened across the island. The reasons for the lack in infrastructural development are multiple and layered: government hesitance to adopt the Internet is certainly part of it, though the long-term effects of the US economic blockade have inarguably been devastating to Cuba’s ability to build a robust web architecture, particularly because so much of the Internet’s global development (in terms of physical infrastructure but also in terms of intellectual property, patents, and standards) has been dominated by the United States. There isn’t time to go into further detail here, but regardless of the reasons for Cuba’s relatively slow Internet adoption, what I like to call the “back in time” narrative can be summed up well borrowing the words of a friend of mine, a well-respected Cuban. He told me that Cuba’s Internet infrastructure is about “twenty years behind,” pointing out that the public wifi hotspot model is fundamentally the same one used by other Latin American countries like Perú a couple decades ago. Larry Press has written astutely from this perspective, arguing that Cuba might be able to leapfrog development stages in order to catch up with the rest of the world.

20170729_152011_iPhone5_sm

Poster art in Clandestina: “Welcome to Prehistory!”

While this modal developmental model could be useful when comparing countries on a macro scale, it is limited if we want to understand what’s happening on the ground in Cuba. I would argue that the changes that the Internet has already wrought in Cuban society can hardly be appreciated if we stay at a high level, and argue instead for a ‘thicker’ approach of social and cultural change. From a hardware perspective, the antennas that the Cuban telecom company ETECSA is using in public wifi parks, mostly from Chinese technology giant Huawei, are fast and functional, and while the scratch-off, single-use login card system I described in my last blog post might seem antiquated, the system sits within a line of tried and true models for selling pre-paid access time going back to phone cards in the 1970’s. As a Cuban blogger and independent journalist I spoke with put it, “at least it’s something,” and compared with five years ago when access in cities was almost exclusively through expensive tourist hotels, the difference is almost night and day. Beyond that, though, the Internet and technology that Cubans use to connect is unrecognizable from those of 1997, and it is this fact that makes Cuba’s integration into the global internet at this moment so difficult to understand using linear development models.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Latin Tiger? Economic Development and the Changing Face of Panama

Corgan - Panama - Skyline

Panama City skyline from Casco Viejo, with the Cinta Costera viaduct development project in the center.

Panama has the fastest growing economy in Latin America. According to the CIA World Factbook, the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by more than 10% in 2012, miles ahead of its closest regional competitor, Peru, at 6.6%, and nearly double the growth rate of Chile. In fact, Panama’s economy grew faster in 2012 than all but six other nations’ worldwide – faster than China, faster than India, and far faster than the United States.

The gleaming skyline of the capital pays tribute to this unprecedented expansion. Of the ten tallest buildings in Latin America, nine are located in Panama City. Of the tallest twenty, Panama boasts fifteen, and all of them—all of them—have been completed since 2010. In step with this expansion, the country’s GDP per capita has risen from $6,200 in 2002 to $15,900 in 2012. According to the International Monetary Fund, Panama now boasts the fourth highest GDP per capita in Latin America, surpassing Costa Rica and Venezuela in recent years, and following close behind Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.

Continue reading

Peru: Development and Social Conflict

Bessarabova - Peru - Institute for Peruvian Studies

All quiet and peaceful at the Institute for Peruvian Studies (Instituto de Estudios Peruanos), Lima, Peru

On my second day in Lima, Peru, and after my third interview with researchers specializing in mining, development, and social conflicts at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP), it is clear that nothing is clear.

My research is focused on the mining-driven social conflict and rural development to serve as a starting point for a recommendations paper on preventing problems in the extractive-driven economies. More specifically, I am looking at structure of the system of public administration and finance to see how that determines the roles and relationships between the main stakeholders – central, regional and provincial government authorities, extractive companies, communities and civil society at large. This framework allows me to compare and draw parallels between such seemingly different countries as Peru and Kazakhstan.

Cajamarca region, located in the northern highlands of Peru, is the geographic focus of my research, not only because of its ongoing protest against the Conga mine, potentially the largest mining investment in the nation’s history, but also because this incredibly resource-rich region has remained poor and underdeveloped over the centuries of its extractive history. One of over 170 ongoing social conflicts in Peru, the case of Cajamarca provides an opportunity to investigate what precipitated the most recent deterioration of the situation.

Continue reading