Central America is a region of 7 countries and over 50 million people. Of this population, less than half have Internet access and, looking a little closer, the inequalities and digital gaps are exacerbated in rural, indigenous and LGBTIQ + populations, as well as people with disabilities, among others.

In 2019, Indela selected IPANDETEC to develop the project Building capacities in the Internet ecosystem in Central America with a multisectoral perspective. It created a solid network of Central American participants dedicated to improving laws and public policies related to privacy and cybersecurity which demonstrated some initial improvements in the region.

Due to the pandemic, IPANDETEC had to streamline its processes to achieve its goal. The project suffered delays and adaptations to its completion, transferring the missing training to virtual sessions and events, but never stopping.

Beneficiary countries

The project focused on three Central American countries: Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. These three countries have high levels of cybercrime and the State does not protect the personal data of its citizens. These countries were selected due to the urgent need for public policies regulating the Internet, as well as the lack of trained local actors who could undertake informed advocacy based on standards focused on human rights.

In the case of Guatemala, the personal data protection bill had been halted since the year 2009 and its discussion had not been completed. Similarly, bills had been introduced in Honduras that did not include standards focused on human rights, and therefore threatened the country’s legal stability in terms of cybersecurity. Finally, El Salvador had begun public consultations for discussion of a data protection bill.

Achievements of the project

IPANDETEC’s project provided training to more than 200 people in the participating countries and produced a map of actors working on Internet public policies, including congresspersons, elected authorities, members of the private sector, actors from civil society and human rights activists, academic experts, and members of the technical sector. It also managed to expand the usual ecosystem by bringing together people who were not actively participating at that time in the development of Internet public policies.

One of the major achievements was the creation of training sessions in the various sectors, including some such as academia and government, which are not always included.

Finally, we created three guides for the development of public policies, one for each country, which were shared not only with project participants, but with policymakers for their use in future legislation. The first document, “Step by step for a comprehensive cybersecurity policy | Honduras,” includes Honduran regulation on cybersecurity, as well as standards and practices that must be used when discussing and approving a cybersecurity policy. For El Salvador and Guatemala, the documents focus on personal data protection in each country and the steps necessary to approach the discussion with a focus on human rights.

As an organization, IPANDETEC learned in depth about the importance and effectiveness of the multisectoral mechanism, the great need for this type of project in the region, and the need to increase the representation of women in Internet-related issues in these countries, among other interesting aspects for future development of extensions of this project.

At the end of the project, the picture in the three countries had radically changed. Guatemala is preparing to discuss a personal data protection bill, while in Honduras the proposed cybersecurity law was not passed. Finally, El Salvador saw the veto of its personal data protection bill.