Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cuba: No MOOCs for You!

The U.S. government is quite good at finding new and innovative ways to shoot itself in the foot with Cuba. If you offer a MOOC, then enterprising Cubans (and in Cuba this would not be easy) who want to connect to the U.S. are told they cannot:

Federal regulations prohibit U.S. businesses from offering services to countries subject to economic sanctions -- a list that includes Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan -- but as recently as this month, students in those countries were still able to access Coursera’s MOOCs. When a student last week attempted to log in from a Syrian IP address, the website produced an error message.

At least it seems possible to get a waiver:

The only option for students in the sanctioned countries may be edX, the MOOC provider founded in partnership between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tena Herlihy, edX’s general counsel, said the company has since last May worked with the U.S. State Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and has so far applied for and received company-specific licenses for its MOOCs to enroll students in Cuba and Iran (a third license, for Sudan, is still in the works).

But of course we also make it as hard as possible for Cuban academics to attend the Latin American Studies Association meeting, because by virtue of being Cuban they are probably terrorists.

These regulations are ridiculous. The U.S. government should be in the business of showing Cubans how it is different from the Castro regime. They're accustomed to being blocked from information, so the U.S. should be doing the opposite.


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