Cuba’s Internet Is F*cking Insane. And the Ways Cubans Use It Are Genius.

Excerpt from this article:

Here’s how it works: you buy a prepaid card from government stores or from one of these (illegal but pretty much ignored by police) scalpers, and on the card is a login code that gives you an hour of access. I bought a card for $3. Surrounding me and my increasingly soggy access card was a mass of flickering screens, devices wavering in and out of connectivity — relatives waving on video chat, Facebook pages being scrolled through, statuses being updated, photos being shared, and even movie trailers being watched (Star Wars!) with frequent buffering. Every now and then, a towel or shirt was pulled out to dry the rain water flecking the screens.

…While I successfully connected, the speed of my Internet brought on flashbacks of MegaBus Wi-Fi, or sharing a remote cabin router with 10 of my friends in upstate New York. The much-maligned “wheel of loading” spun eternally on my screen, and in a fit of American impatience, I decided no selfie was worth literal minutes of upload times, especially in a steady rain and a pair of decidedly un-waterproof Clarks. I opted to cut my excursion short to pursue dry socks, and maybe a quick nap. I wasted three dollars. I am a really shitty Cuban.

…El Paquete Semana. The weekly packet. A one-terabyte hard-drive loaded with a week’s worth of American movies, shows, music, magazines, and even smartphone apps. The original source of this smorgasbord of media is something of a mystery, but dealers pace the streets of Havana, selling full versions of El Paquete for around $8, or a smaller version with partial content for a few bucks. It’s passed around the Cuban population by street dealers for a cost, or by friends out of charity, like borrowing a Netflix password. My particular amigos were already looking forward to seeing the Latin Grammys and the Victoria Secret Fashion show in the upcoming months, both of which would make rounds on El Paquete about a week after airing on US television.

And yes, my friends assure me, “El Paquete and chill” is definitely a thing.

A Music-Sharing Network for the Unconnected

Photo: Digital-music merchants in Mali’s capital provide a vibrant human-driven alternative to iTunes. by Michaël Zumstein/Agence Vu, for The New York Times

Excerpt from this article, and be sure to check out the slideshow, excellent and interesting perspectives on downloading digital content in this part of the world:

…As of 2012 there were enough cellphones in service in Mali for every man, woman and child. The spread of cellphones in this way has driven innovation across the continent. M-Pesa, a text-message-based money-transfer system, has made financial services available for the first time to millions. Another enterprise tells rural farmers by text what their crops might sell for in distant markets; mass-texting campaigns have helped promote major public health initiatives.

Yet for many Africans, the phone is not merely, or even principally, a communications device. You can see this on the sun-blasted streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital, where a new kind of merchant has sprung up along Fankélé Diarra Street. Seated practically thigh to thigh, these vendors crouch over laptops, scrolling through screen after screen of downloaded music. They are known as téléchargeurs, or downloaders, and they operate as an offline version of iTunes, Spotify and Pandora all rolled into one. They know what their regulars might like, from the latest Jay Z album to the obscurest songs of Malian music pioneers like Ali Farka Touré. Savvy musicians take their new material to Fankélé Diarra Street and press the téléchargeurs to give it a listen and recommend it to their customers. For a small fee — less than a dime a song — the téléchargeurs transfer playlists to memory cards or U.S.B. sticks, or directly onto cellphones. Customers share songs with their friends via short-range Bluetooth signals.