Feature: Cuba Boosts Digital Economy amid COVID-19 Pandemic
2021-04-28 Xinhua

by Yosley Carrero

HAVANA, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Aile Rodriguez, a 31-year-old engineer living in Havana's Bahia district, has turned to online grocery shopping to reduce exposure to the virus amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the island nation strives to contain its sharpest rise in infections since March last year, thousands of people nationwide are benefitting from measures adopted by the Cuban government to boost the country's digital economy through e-commerce.

Rodriguez, the mother of a four-year-old boy, uses locally-developed applications to buy basic necessities at the city's supermarkets and convenience stores.

She says she enjoys filling her online shopping cart with food bundles and hygiene kit items either from the comfort of her couch or while resting in bed, which she describes as a "pleasant and time-saving experience."

The development of e-commerce platforms is part of the Cuban government's strategies to improve the performance of the country's economy amid the pandemic and the U.S. sanctions against the island.

As more and more households in Cuba have access to computers, the number of Cuba's Internet users has grown tremendously. In 2020, some 4.4 million Cubans accessed the mobile Internet, according to officials from the state-owned Telecommunications Company of Cuba.

Meanwhile, Cuba's leading e-commerce application Transfermovil is expected to reach 1.7 million users by the end of February, according to local authorities.

Miguel Gutierrez, director general of Informatics at the Cuban Ministry of Communications, told local media that during 2020, some progress was made to promote people's access to virtual payments.

"For e-commerce to be effective, a multifactorial work is required, including indispensable elements such as bancarization and efficient logistics chains in virtual shops," he said.

Throughout the pandemic, an increasing number of people on the island have continued to pay their bills via mobile applications and digital platforms while sheltering in place.

The development of e-commerce in Cuba is offering many opportunities for private entrepreneurs who seek to explore new business opportunities as the country implements its major monetary overhaul over the past six decades.

Running a bakery in Havana's Arroyo Naranjo district, Jorge Luis Ramirez uses mobile applications to charge clients 50 percent of the overall price in advance, in order to reduce social interactions during the pandemic.

"People no longer need to order a birthday or wedding cake in person," he said. "E-commerce is making things easier and helping people stay safe as the virus sticks around."