Going digital at Havana seminary

Samuel Figueredo is the engineer in charge of information technology at Cuba's Evangelical Methodist Seminary in Havana. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.
Samuel Figueredo is the engineer in charge of information technology at Cuba's Evangelical Methodist Seminary in Havana. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

In some respects, those attending Seminario Evangélico Metodista are ahead of many Cubans in terms of using digital technology.

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A stained glass window frames a view of palm trees outside the chapel at Camp Canaan, a Methodist retreat center near Santa Clara, Cuba. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

“When pastors come to our institution, they have free access to internet,” he explains. “It’s slow, but they can access and communicate, use social networks and search for information.”

The seminary has its own server, intranet and wireless coverage. Some 12,000 digital books, resources and class assignments can be accessed through any device or on one of the 20 computers available, says Samuel Figueredo, the engineer in charge of information technology.

Placing class materials and assignments on the server allows students to use a flash drive to copy the information, he says. Each student receives four terabytes of space on the server and they can use the drive for pre-and post-homework assignments for their sessions at the seminary.

What the students do not have, he adds, is internet access in their own homes or communities. Cuba’s open wireless “hot spots,” at a current cost of $2 per hour, are unaffordable on a pastor’s salary and carry some restrictions.

But Figueredo expects internet access to expand in Cuba and he wants pastors to be ready, so their experience at the seminary helps prepare them for that digital future.

Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. She and UMNS Photographer Mike DuBose visited Cuba in November. Follow her at https://twitter.com/umcscribe or contact her at 615-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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