Communist Cuba may boast a doctor on every block and schools for all its children, but when it comes to telephones, computers and the Internet it lags behind other countries in the hemisphere, a government report showed on Thursday.

The National Statistics Office released 2008 telecommunications data showing there were 1.4 million telephones, fixed and mobile, in the country of 11.2 million inhabitants. (

This gave a total density of 12.6 telephones per 100 inhabitants, the lowest in the region, according to the United Nations International Telecommunications Union.

Computers were also scarce at just 630,000 and most were believed to be in government offices, health facilities and schools.

The report said 13 percent of Cuba's population had Internet access, but in most cases this was to a government Intranet. No data was available for access to the worldwide web, but diplomats and residents say it is severely restricted.

In Jamaica, Internet access was 53.27 per 100 inhabitants, the Dominican Republic 25.87 percent and in Haiti 10.42 percent, the ITU reported.

I would love one day to have a telephone, computer and Internet at home, but I see little prospects for now, said 23-year-old Yenisey Peraza, a Cuban dancer who recently bought a cellphone for emergencies.

In a reform introduced by President Raul Castro after he took over from his ailing brother, Fidel, in February last year, Cubans were given permission to freely buy and use cellphones.

But they can only pay for them in hard currency equivalent convertible pesos, which are not available to all Cubans. The government pegs the Cuban convertible currency (CUC) at $1.08.


In a move in April easing some aspects of Washington's 47-year-old embargo against Cuba, President Barack Obama allowed U.S. telecommunications firms to offer services in Cuba as part of a strategy to try to increase people to people contact.

The White House said in April that U.S. telecoms companies would be allowed to set up fiber-optic cable and satellite links with Cuba, start roaming service agreements and permit U.S. residents to pay for telecoms, satellite radio and television services provided to Cubans.

While Cuba's leaders welcomed the move as a step in the right direction, they reiterated their demand that Washington completely lift the embargo, suggesting the new telecoms overtures would not prosper.

Cuba's failure to embrace modern telecoms is a major complaint among citizens under 50 years old, who cite it as one of the reasons they seek to migrate abroad.

There is very little Internet access, and what there is the government controls. Even having a telephone is difficult, and one can't even dream of having a computer or Internet, said Denis Ferrer, a young restaurant employee.

The Cuban state monopolizes communications and dominates the economy where the average government wage is around 420 domestic pesos, or around 18 convertible pesos ($20), a month.

A cellular telephone line costs 30 CUCs and the cheapest cellular phone is priced at 60 CUCs. A minute's use of a cell phone calling out or receiving averages half a CUC, or more than half a day's state wages, while a 160 character text message costs 0.16 CUC to send.

About 60 percent of Cuba's population has some access to convertible pesos through money sent to them by relatives abroad, tourism tips, state bonuses, or the black market.

Cuban officials blame the U.S. trade embargo against the island for the country's poor communications.

They insist the data for individual use and ownership is misleading as priority is given to social use of telecoms technology, from health and education, to government-operated computer clubs in every municipality.

(Additional reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Chris Wilson)