by Raul Menchaca
HAVANA, March 13 (Xinhua) -- In the past, each time when Cuban Mario Lombao had an assignment to complete, he had to assemble and disassemble an old computer, whose components were kept in a box full of apples.
Now, more than 10 years later and after becoming a computer engineer, Lombao is the founder and owner of Lombao Estudio, a small company specializing in design, software development and marketing. The company is the product of economic reforms taking place in the Caribbean nation.
After graduating from the Higher Polytechnic Institute of Havana, Lombao worked for two years at Cuba's Ministry of Domestic Trade. He then founded Lombao Estudio in 2013 which, in his words, aligned perfectly with the government's computerization plans for the Cuban society.
"In this context, we see a great opportunity because precisely our activity is targeted toward computerization," the 32-year-old engineer told Xinhua.
Little by little, the company, which includes five programers and a designer, has been gaining a foothold in Cuba's fledgling private market by offering several options on high-quality software at reasonable prices.
"We provide personalized service to each client, with particular emphasis on operating systems," Lombao explained.
The company works as a cooperative, where everyone has a say and collectively decides the course of action. For the past three years they have invested all the profits into the development of a single-board computer called LombAD Pro, with 100 percent Cuban components.
This device, which could run different software when connected to a screen, was designed to boost private businesses in Cuba.
"It's like a small computer that can be used in schools or medical offices at a very low cost," Lombao said, holding a small triangular black box whose housing was made on a 3D printer.
Most of LombAD Pro's electronic circuits and its entire operating system were designed and made by Cuban entrepreneurs, all based on similar but more expensive devices, such as Apple TV, a digital media player and microconsole designed by Apple Inc.
"It's a Cuban product, designed for the Cuban context," said Lombao, adding that he recognized the need to contribute to Cuba's progress in computerization.
Cuba has a population of 11.2 million people, and currently more than 5 million can gain access to internet services through different channels, 60 percent of those from schools and work centers.
As Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel is calling for the computerization of society, "my business has something to contribute to these government plans," Lombao said.