We’re excited to welcome Guatemala as the newest country — and the first country in Central America — to join A4AI. At the first A4AI-Guatemala multi-stakeholder forum, held yesterday in Guatemala City, A4AI Executive Director Sonia Jorge and Raul Solares, Superintendent of the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones (SIT) signed an official Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), witnessed and supported by the Vice Minister of Guatemala’s Ministry of Communications, Infrastructure and Housing, to mark the start of a three-year collaboration to implement the policies needed to reduce the cost of internet and enable all Guatemalans to afford to connect.
At first glance, connectivity costs in Guatemala appear to be relatively low —1GB of mobile data costs just over 4% of average monthly income. However, this figure belies significant income inequality that results in a cost to connect that is actually much higher for most citizens. The lowest 20% of income earners in Guatemala, for example, have to spend 19% of their monthly income to afford just 1GB of data. Partially as a result of these high costs, just 27% of Guatemala’s population are internet users, making it one of Latin America’s least connected countries — in the region, only Honduras (20%), Nicaragua (19%), and Haiti (12%) have lower rates of connectivity.
Following the signing of the MoU and welcoming remarks from Vice Minister Aguilar, stakeholders at the forum came together to discuss obstacles to affordable and universal internet access in Guatemala, and to decide on priority work areas for the soon-to-be-formed A4AI-Guatemala coalition. Preliminary priority areas for the coalition, as decided by the forum participants, include:
- Strengthening the legal framework guiding digital issues and development, and ensuring a strong, independent regulator;
- Developing a clear and strong broadband plan that lays out a process for spectrum management; and
- Bolstering the ‘Nacion Digital’ digital agenda, and ensuring that it provides concrete steps for ensuring digital inclusion for all Guatemalans and works to expand access to an internet with locally relevant content and to provide the digital skills training needed to ensure all can access and use the internet effectively.