MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, said she felt like a girl in a toy store at eMerge Americas Techweek in Miami Beach Monday.
While Hewlett Packard had a bar with an ice sculpture that served cobalt blue glowing "martini clouds," an IBM representative talked about processing "big data" to improve traffic patterns.
Sanchez wasn't as flashy. She focused her statements on political dissenters' use of technology in Cuba and Venezuela.
"Venezuelans are putting up a battle with social media that should be an example of what is real creativity," Sanchez, 38, said in Spanish.
Organizers said about 5,000 attended the convention Monday. The most popular social media shares of the day were related to the blogger, who has about 600,000 followers on Twitter.
Venezuelan protesters who have been in the streets since February have shown a "constant effectiveness that is worth imitating," she said.
Although it isn't clear how many deaths are linked to the protests in Venezuela estimates report 41 people have died and at least 700 have been injured since the protests began in February.
Student protesters have used Android applications such as the walkie-talkie Zello to coordinate protests and spread information on abuses, as President Nicolas Maduro's administration tightens its grip on journalists.
The worldwide collaboration that has turned to Venezuelan students' aid to fight authoritarian digital blockades is reminiscent of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2010 and 2011.
Sanchez's reports from Cuba on the Generacion Y blog earned her the prestigious Ortega y Gasset award in 2008. She said she is planning on launching a full website.
She also suggested that those who want to help Cubans stay informed should donate thumb drives. The majority of the population does not have access to the Internet in the island, she said.
"I don't think that everything can stay in the virtual world," Sanchez said in Spanish. "There has to be a responsibility to move from the click to reality."
Other voices at eMerge Monday: Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Chairman of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Pat Geraghty, University of Miami's Donna Shalala, CEO of Nanobiosym Anita Goel and JP Morgan Chase Hugh Tamassia.
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