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    Viewpoint from Cuba


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    Juan Fernandez Gonzalez of Cuba's National Commission for Electronic Commerce highlighted Cuba's experiences with its portal site and its new e-commerce commission, in response to questions from the moderator.

    Q. What are Cuba's experiences in e-commerce trade? 

    A. In the last two to three years Cuba has been using e-commerce: the sale of CDs of Cuban music, car rentals for tourists and monetary transfers to Cuba are examples. We do feel, however, that the results could be greater, relative to the efforts that have been made.

    Developing countries face many challenges in establishing a proper framework to ensure successful e-commerce in their national enterprises.

    In order to better develop e-commerce in Cuba, we created the Cuban Commission of Electronic Commerce. It works in three areas:

    • Infrastructure. It deals with network-related issues, but also services support (such as web hosting, Internet marketing and security of monetary transfers).

    • Training. The commission is developing national policy recommendations for training professionals who will be involved with e-commerce. This includes developers of applications as well as commercial executives in enterprises.

    • Regulatory framework. It identifies Cuban laws and regulations that are an obstacle to e-commerce in order to adapt or replace them or to create new ones. It also makes recommendations on Cuba's e-commerce positions discussed in international organizations like the World Trade Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the World Intellectual Property Organization and others.

    Q. Cubaweb is a very attractive site. You mention projects for improving e-commerce performance, but you don't mention promotion of the site. How do you attract international customers? 

    A. Cubaweb has a good score in terms of hits (over 7 million page views a month) as it is a "portal" for information about Cuba from Cuba. Almost all Cuban newspapers are listed, for example.

    While I am not the site manager, I think that the main challenge is the conversion rate, that is, turning visitors into buyers. I believe there are several reasons:

    • Rapid access. Parts of the site are slow to load (some images are large). A search engine has been added by site administrators, and a major upgrade is on the way.

    • Focused marketing. Although the site has high traffic overall, my feeling is that the visitor demographics are not the best for commercial purposes. This can be addressed by focused marketing, but we don't have enough trained personnel. That is why the Cuban Commission of Electronic Commerce is developing a training policy on e-commerce, and working to involve universities and enterprises.

    • Broad product base. The variety of Cuban goods sold via Internet is low compared to the possibilities. I think, for instance, of Cuban cigars, coffee, rum, flowers and seeds, natural cosmetics and medicines or hand-crafted items. The Commission is encouraging more firms to use e-commerce.

    • Trust. Finally, there is the trust factor. This aspect will be addressed nationally by the commission, by establishing strict standards for e-commerce consumer protection.

    I would like to hear about other experiences of developing countries.

    Contact Juan Fernandez Gonzalez at juan@ntsiml.colombus.cu 

    Conference organizer: S. Meitzel, Senior Training Officer (meitzel@intracen.org). Conference highlights: N. Domeisen.