Technology has advanced rapidly, and a clear example of this is the country’s digital transformation. Although Internet penetration in Guatemala remains relatively low, with only 30% of the population having access to this resource, much has changed since the first connection to the Internet. In commemoration of International Internet Day, we want to share with you some key moments in the history of how Guatemala connected with the world.
In 1991 Luis Furlán, director of the Center for Studies in Applied Informatics (CEIA in Spanish) connected to the Internet for the first time. Furlán used a Unix to Unix copier (UUCP) to connect to an email system, via telephone. The UUCP is a series of computer programs that allow the execution and transfer of files, e-mail, and a system called netnews (the Web was not available yet, it was invented in 1990 and was still in development).
This connection was possible thanks to the help of . Theodore Hope, who was developing the Huracán project in Costa Rica. The success of the first guatemalan connection was such that soon researchers and professors from the other universities requested the service of this node. The operation grew until a dedicated higher capacity computer had to be installed and an additional phone line was connected. With that, hundreds of users were served..
In 1992 the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala was assigned the management of the .gt domains and the National Council for Science and Technology was created. A pioneering project of the Information and Informatics Commission of CONCyT was Mayanet, created to launch the first national scientific/academic network. This network would interconnect the five existing universities at the time: Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala, Universidad Franciso Marroquín, Universidad Rafael Landivar, Universidad Mariano Gálvez y Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. The Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), the former Central American Institute for Industrial Research and Technology (ICAITI), and CONCyT itself were also connected.
The Mayanet project required the authorization of Guatel, the natioal telecommunications company, since only they were authorized to provide telecommunications services in the country. At that time, Guatel was working on a national X.25 network project called Mayapac, so initially, they didn´t want to give authorization. The academic network began in December 1995 thanks to the support and intervention of President Ramiro de León Carpio. “In January 1996, the first commercial internet provider in Guatemala (Citel) emerged, and the rest is history,” says Furlán.
The late 90s to the Present
Although in the urban area the Internet is an accessible resource, it is important to mention that there is still a long way to go. For rural areas, the Internet remains as foreign as it was 30 years ago and its fees are inaccessible. With the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to work to digitalize the region is more evident than ever.
Although progress has been significant, the end of the road isn´t near and in recent years milestones have been reached: such as the first Internet interconnection point (IXP) in Guatemala in 2020. The limits of the Internet and its advances are difficult to imagine.