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HeyCuba organization creates platform for access to the Internet

HeyCuba.org has created a platform called Apretaste that allows web
browsing using email service. The platform provides round-about Internet
access in a nation where the majority of people have limited or no
access. An upcoming hackathon seeks help from other technology
enthusiasts to expand services on the island.

Salvi Pascual, who immigrated from Cuba just five years ago, is well
aware of the difficulties Cubans on the island face to connect with the
outside world.

So he devised a round-about way for those without service to access the

“In Cuba, Internet access is minimal,” said the 30-year-old entrepreneur
and founder of HeyCuba.org. “However, more than 2.6 million Cubans have
an email account.”

Those figures prompted Pascual to ​​create an email service that allows
people on the island to obtain information available online via email.
The result: Apretaste, an innovative platform that allows web browsing
using email service.

How Apretaste works

Any email user on the island can send a message to apretaste@gmail.com.
The user instantly receives a response from Apretaste, like this:

From that point, the user can access the services offered by the system
by just typing in the email subject line what it is they want to know.
For example, someone who wants to consult Wikipedia should type in
“Wikipedia” followed by keywords on the subject matter they are researching.

So far, the platform offers 30 services, including results from Google
Translate and Google Maps, a SMS messaging system to anywhere in the
world and even a social platform called Cupid, which “helps you in the
arduous search for your soulmate.”

Pascual, who works as a professor of Computer Science at Keiser
University in Fort Lauderdale, said Apretaste receives more than 1,000
emails a day from nearly 40,000 users.

Although the system is automatic, Pacual said HeyCuba.org is seeking
help from other technology enthusiasts to expand its services. That’s
the purpose of a hackathon that will take place March 11-13.


The hackathon

The hackathon will be held at Florida Tech Vocational Institute School
in the Mall of the Americas, 7757 West Flagler St., in Miami. The event
aims to attract programmers to collaborate on the project. There will be
some $1,000 in cash prizes, free pizza and “all the Cuban coffee you need.”

The hackaton is beginner-friendly for those who are just learning to
code. Plus mentors will be on hand, so the event will also be a learning
experience, Pascual said.

“Anyone with knowledge of PHP programming can participate,” he said.

So far, Cuban network administrators have blocked two Apretaste domains.
But Pascual doesn’t believe that the Cuban government has been directly
behind the interventions.

“I think they get scared when they see a lot of emails coming from the
same domain, so they block it,” he said.

Pascual hasn’t been able to promote the service on the island. Users
learn about it through family and friends, and then recommend it to
others, Pascual said.


What: HeyCuba.org Hackathon

When: March 11-13

Where: Vocational Institute School in the Mall of the Americas, 7757
West Flagler Street, #220, in Miami.

Info: Those interested in participating in the HeyCuba hackathon can
register or get more information at heycuba.weebly.com/#register

Source: HeyCuba organization creates platform for access to the Internet
| In Cuba Today – www.incubatoday.com/news/article63853267.html

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