USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative: New Sun Road Factsheet
Date published: March 14, 2023
Globally, men are 21 percent more likely to be online than women—a figure that rises to 52 percent in Least Developed Countries. The USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative aims to tackle this digital divide by piloting innovative ways to improve Internet access for women around the world.
In Guatemala, access to energy is a major barrier to Internet uptake across the country, especially in rural and remote communities. In the Alta Verapaz region in the north central part of Guatemala, home to 1.2 million people, only 51 percent of the population have electricity and only 13 percent have access to an Internet connection. In contrast, the average electrification rate in the rest of the country is 89 percent. To tackle this challenge of improving rural connectivity, USAID enlisted the help of New Sun Road, a public benefit corporation that specializes in solar power systems and bringing Internet access to under-served communities. Through the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative, New Sun Road developed solar-powered digital community centers and provided digital skills training to indigenous women in Alta Verapaz.
New Sun Road began activities in the Alta Verapaz region in 2021, following a series of assessments that showed women were eager to learn digital skills. During community interviews, women pointed to the lack of energy and electricity as a principal problem in their communities, which prevented access to health and educational resources, and economic opportunities online. Focus groups revealed over 99 percent of women were interested in learning how to use a computer and the Internet. “I would like to have light and technology in our community for us women,” shared Carmelina, a participant in one of the focus groups. “[The center] serves us and our children, too. We must learn.”