Knowledge Freedom – The Linux Professional Institute trip to Cuba

From November 17th to 25th of 2019, the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) team was reunited in Cuba for a series of activities involving Academia, Industry, Government, and, of course, the local Free Software Community. For Rafael Peregrino (Director of Partnerships), Eduardo Lima (Business Executive), and me, Cesar Brod (Director of Community Engagement), this was the first time on the beautiful island. Hernán Pachas (Alliance and Business Executive) had been there a couple months before to establish the first face-to-face contacts and to fine-tune the agenda for the November events.

Those visitors to Cuba who expect to see old cars, a mix of old Spanish colonial architecture, and French-style two to four floors buildings will not be disappointed. The old portion of the capital city, Havana (La Habana Vieja), was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is much more to Cuba, though. Some very modern buildings and brand new cars can be seen in a short walk through the boardwalk (el Malecón). What makes Cuba beautiful, though, is its people. The literacy index is practically 100%, and all Cubans taxi drivers are well trained in the history of the country, which makes all taxi rides and city walks a lesson. Also, many of the drivers are Mechanical Engineers, which makes a lot of sense since the ones who drive the old cars have to be extremely creative to keep them running. Furthermore, due to the embargo the United States imposes on Cuba, creativity is a must have quality.

The Cuban government has been very concerned about the education of its people and that is why Cubans working with technology have developed knowledge and skills in Linux and open source software. From the UCI – Universidad de las Ciencias Informáticas (the Computer Science University), a team of engineers have been developing FLOSS projects. From the Linux community, people collaborate on OSS projects such as the ParrotOS distribution. The commercial software industry, meanwhile, has been concerned with developing OSS solutions which are implemented in many industrial sectors inside and outside Cuba.

The first days in Havana were dedicated to activities inside the UCI. I conducted a Linux Essentials review workshop and was quite impressed by the fact the more than 20 people present were well versed on the contents. Other than having studied the LE topics prior to our arrival, they all have hands-on experience as systems administrators. I am pretty sure all of them were already able to take our LPIC-1 and LPIC-2 certifications. After the workshop everyone stayed there and committed to working together, community members and the University scholars, towards the evolution of NOVA, the Cuban-made Linux distro already used by the UCI and several governmental offices. On the following day, 20 people took our online Linux Essentials exam, proctored by Hernán, Eduardo, and me. As the UCI became an LPI Academic Partner, two professors also helped proctoring so they learned about the process. Everyone passed the exam, three of them with a 100% score. Hernán gave a plush penguin to the oldest exam taker, 65 years old, who showed it is never too late to keep learning. At the end of the day, the team had a meeting with the vice rector and other high regents of the university to work on the details of the partnership.

On the 20th, Rafael arrived for meetings with the Ministry of Communications, who opened their doors to several possibilities, including introductions to ICT companies in Cuba who could be interested to become LPI’s Hiring Partners. The next day, our team met with GEIC, the Association of ICT Cuban Companies, and talked about the possibility of them becoming a Channel Partner. Over the next few days, we met with several companies we were introduced to by GEIC, the Ministry of Communications, and also others Hernán had contacted before our arrival. All of them were quite interested in how LPI could be part of their future, working with them to form Cuban professionals who will be able to export their services and knowledge throughout the world. Cubans, of course, already export their intelligence and culture through literature, music, and medical knowledge.

As this was also an opportunity to get all of our executives together face-to-face, all the time we were not meeting with the locals, we were working on our strategic planning for 2020 and beyond.

We also spent a lot of time with the Cuban FOSS community, learning from them how LPI can better help them. We will no doubt be seeing a lot of new educational materials being produced, translated, and reviewed by our new friends.

About Cesar Brod:

Cesar Brod is the LPI's Community Engagement Director for Latin America and a long time free and open source technology user and advocate. He has been able to help start and grow several companies in Brazil by combining free and agile thinking and methods, mostly partnering with educational institutions. He is a proud user of Linux before the kernel reached version 1.0.

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