Wi-Fi hotspots in Cuba to experience urban transformations

Posted: 23-Sep-16 14:06

Though Internet in Cuba remains limited and slow, the opening of several Wi-Fi hotspots throughout national territory has made them important places for social reunion. In order to improve the experience, young Cuban designers plan to carry out an urban reform of what they call “Parawifi”, with spaces for elders and people with disabilities as well as USB charging devices.

Wi-Fi hotspots in Cuba to experience urban transformations

A year has already gone by since the Cuban government began opening several Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the island’s territory. After several projects and attempts to make broadband Internet service available in some local homes, today, thousands of Cuban residents swarm these spaces in order to enjoy Internet access, which still remains limited and remarkably slow.

In total, the country counts with 114 public Wi-Fi hotspots, where Cubans pay 2 CUC (Convertible Cuban Pesos which are roughly equivalent to a dollar) for a prepaid card that allows users one hour of Internet access. In spite of the low connectivity index (only 1%), this digital revolution expands and these spaces have become true spots of social reunion.

In order to better this rather uncomfortable experience (sometimes where there is no shade or nowhere to sit), young designers Luis Ramirez and Michel Aguilar created a device that will allow people to surf through the Internet in improved conditions. These stackable modules will be an urban transformation counting with spaces for the eldest generation and people with handicaps, as well as USB charging devices which will be powered by solar panels. This project ultimately seeks to promote socialisation and community use.

This new urban development goes by the name “Parawifi” and will be made with biodegradable plastic and equipped with a synthetic grass floor. This system was selected to represent Cuba in the first London Design Biennale, as well as in the Madrid Latin American Design Biennale, in November.

After graduating from Cuba’s Superior Institute of Design (ISDI), Ramirez and Aguilar were inspired by one main principle: the conviction that design can improve life quality. Both designers will put their experiment to the test with a prototype in Santiago de Cuba, an event they are very excited about. According to Ramirez and his partner Aguilar, the project could really be a revolution in current urban design:

“In Cuba, urban spaces are not prepared for this phenomenon. The uncomfortable setting, the weather and vulnerability combine and subtract quality from the experience. We would like to create a meeting place that encourages interaction and humanises the city. We want these places to be backlit, ventilated, peaceful, useful, accessible and sustainable. The synthetic grass floor is also a comfy option that resists both the strong sun and persistent rain.”

Moreover, in reference to the power source, the designers have devised the modules to include solar panels on top. At the same time, these panels will feed a battery that will accumulate energy and later be used through electric and USB sockets. They will also provide electricity for energy-saving fans and LED luminaries.

Internet access is not yet an easy or comfortable experience for locals, in spite of efforts. Though Cuba has made a point to improve this aspect, and even hotels chains like Melia have taken a step forward in providing Wi-Fi within its properties, transformation is needed. Rethinking the way public social spaces should be, have made these young, talented and enthusiastic designers come up with an idea that could bring many benefits for the Cuban people. Improving cyber experience is what “Parawifi” is all about, a project that will proudly be presented to over 30 other countries during the upcoming biennales.


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