Translation Industry in Cuba

The island of Cuba, just 228 miles from Miami, is both very close and yet very far from the United States. This article does not aim to dwell on the well-documented history of this complex relationship. Instead, it explores the potential opportunities that Cuba offers to the translation and localization industry worldwide.

This article was written by Arturo Quintero and published in MultiLingual Computing magazine #114.

How Cuba Stacks Up

Cuba today has many of the ingredients that have made other countries successful. It offers a combination of a highly educated population, cost-competitive advantage, time-zone proximity, cultural affinity and possible easy access to theUnited States. Spanish is the official language of Cuba. On the downside, while well educated in general, it does suffer from its general isolation and limited access to the latest developments and information from abroad.

The country is well-known for its export of doctors and medical personnel worldwide, for instance, with tens of thousands of them working in Venezuela in exchange for subsidized oil deliveries. Conversely, Cuba attracts annually thousands of paying health tourists and is growing in importance as the place for conducting clinical trials. Its potential in the specific field of medical translations and life sciences in general is worth considering.

Wikipedia reports that the average wage at the end of 2005 was 334 regular pesos per month (16.70 USD per month), and the average pension was 9 USD per month. According to the CIA World Factbook, the July 2010 population of Cuba stood at 11,477,459 inhabitants with the following demographic distribution of age: 18.1% (0-14 years); 70.3% (15-64 years); and 11.6% (65 years and over).

An estimated 76% of the total population lives in cities, and Cuba’s percentage of gross national product that goes into education is 9.1% compared to 5.3% in the United States in 2005. This leads to a remarkably high rating of population literacy in Cuba at 99.8%.

Infrastructure Under Strain

Some 1.4 million people in Cuba have access to the internet, according to the CIA World Factbook. However, private internet access is rare and heavily restricted, and priority access is given instead to universities, research centers and companies. Until some two years ago, citizens were not even allowed to buy computers. Access to the internet for private use remains effectively impossible without special authorization. Citizens could get internet access in internet cafes, where their online activity is monitored and restricted. There were 3,637 hosts in 2009 at the internet code .cu.

Currently, there is no underwater fiber optic cable connecting Cuba to the internet, leaving the country having to rely on satellite-based internet services. Even though a US link exists just some 20 miles away, the US embargo does not allow Cuba to connect to it. A solution is in the pipeline for 2011, in the form of an underwater cable that will link Venezuela, Cuba and Jamaica, covering some 960 miles and providing Cuba with a better internet connection than currently, through a much wider bandwidth, effectively multiplying the current speed 2,000-3,000 times.

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