Subscribe and receive the Latin America and the Caribbean CyberWatch in your inbox.
Country-wide protests organized through social media
Social media has played an essential role in the development of a movement that has spread across Brazil, dubbed the “Vinegar Revolt,” which references the way protesters have used vinegar-covered rags to repel the police’s tear gas. The first of the protests erupted early in June, against a proposed transit fare hike. This lead to larger gatherings, culminating in the arrest of hundreds of people at a Sao Paulo demonstration on June 13th. Facebook and Twitter have been used extensively as organizing tools for protesters. When the use of social media in the movement became widely known, the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) announced it would be monitoring pages and trending topics, as well as the mobile messaging tool WhatsApp. However, Brazilians were not fazed by these threats, and again used social media to mock the government’s attempts, specifically with regard to WhatsApp which would not be vulnerable to government spying. Social media has also played a role in maintaining the grassroots, leaderless nature of the movement, which has come to represent a dissatisfaction with social services in the country.
Cuba expands Internet access, but costs still high
On June 4th, 118 public internet cafes opened across Cuba, as part of an initiative by the government-owned telecommunications company ETECSA to increase Internet access in the country. Previously, Internet access was at a low regional rate of 15%. The opening of these cafes is partly enabled by the use of a fibre-optic cable which connects Cuba to Jamaica and Venezuela, which was installed two years ago but not activated until recently. While Cubans have welcomed the expansion of Internet cafes, many have criticized this initiative because access is extremely expensive, costing about 25% of an average Cubans’ monthly income for only one hour of full Internet use. However despite the high costs, thousands of people have already made use of the new facilities.
Forum spurs improvement to Internet access
After receiving criticism from Internet experts on the inefficiency and high costs of Internet access, the Public Utilities Commission of Belize launched the first Internet Exchange Point Open Forum to help find ways to improve Internet access across the country. Experts from the business, government and civil society sectors gathered to share their ideas on how to address this issue. Internet access in Belize was ranked as the most expensive in the Caribbean region in a 2013 survey by ICT Pulse. One of the underlying problems with connectivity in Belize is that most bandwidth comes from locations in the US, meaning that communications such as email must travel out of the country and then back again in order to be delivered to the recipient. At the Open Forum, a widely supported solution to this issue was the establishment of an Internet Exchange Point, which would provide much-needed internal bandwidth and improve cost and speed.
Crowdfunding comes to Jamaica
Soon Jamaica will be joining many other nations with the release of its first crowdfunding platform, which allows individuals to gather monetary support for projects from members of the public. The new project, isupportjamaica.com, was announced earlier this month at the 2013 Jamaica Diaspora Conference. Its aim is to support Jamaican entrepreneurs and small businesses, as well as NGOs and charitable projects. This site would allow users from across the world to fund Jamaican projects. Crowdfunding has gained popularity worldwide as a grassroots method of fundraising, and the number of sites being created for this purpose is on the rise.
Government cracks down on cybercrime
The Jamaican government has announced plans to establish a Cyber Emergency Response Team to address the growing incidence of cyber-related crimes in the country. The Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining has stated that the project will be a vital way to protect Jamaica’s online network. There are clear vulnerabilities in the Jamaican network, with over 1000 sites reported being hacked between 2010 and 2011. The Minister also announced in a separate interview that they will be using “ethical hackers” to test for weaknesses in government websites. Cybercrime has been a special concern for Jamaican police in recent months, with a rise in the online scams and hacking. The police have also identified a rise in cybercrimes being perpetrated by youth over social media networks.
Antigua and Barbuda
Government announces region’s first Open Data initiative
The government of Antigua and Barbuda will be launching an open data initiative that would be the first in the Caribbean region. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Telecommunications invited members from the World Bank and other international partners to assess the open data readiness of all government sectors. The report was recently released, and the government plans to go ahead with the recommendations that Antigua is ideally suited for the launch of an open data initiative. In the coming months, non-sensitive data collected by government sectors will be available online to the public, and there are plans for an online portal that will house all the data.
Read previous versions of the Latin America and the Caribbean CyberWatch.