For Cuba, a country where most of the population still can’t get onto the Internet, El Paquete Semanal has stepped in as a sort of hybrid Google, Youtube, and any other page that exists online. Because El Paquete Semanal is loaded onto a thumb drive, all people need is a computer to check out their customizable mix of movies, music, and publications.
But for more than a year, another company has also been helping Cubans get their Internet fix. Miami-based Apretaste allows Cubans to use their emails as a way to get content. According to Motherboard, 2.6 million Cubans can access their emails, and only 400,000 can go on the Internet. Using email as a workaround, the Apretaste service lets users send email requests of the pages on the internet they’d like to see, and sends them a compressed download of the page’s HTML file. As Motherboard explains, “Users can get the Wikipedia entry for Cuba, for example, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Wikipedia Cuba.””
Apretaste owner Salvi Pascual explains that it’s not as easy to control what goes on in email. “It’s much harder to censor email in Cuba than it is to censor web traffic,” he told Motherboard. “Every workplace and college has their own email servers.”
On top of sending pieces of the web via email, the company also has a Craigslist-type service. Apretaste currently gets around 45,000 emails monthly, and in the future, Facebook and Twitter will also be accessible through their email exchanges.