By  Jorge Alberto Colorado Comparini 

The Coordination of NGOs and Cooperatives of Guatemala (CONGCOOP) has launched a Virtual Training Centre to offer its members, and young indigenous people in particular, expertise that will support new leadership development in the country. 

Guatemala has a population of approximately 16 million people, of whom 43.8% are of indigenous Mayan origin, and more than half are young people (2018 census). Education has been one of the country’s greatest shortcomings. The quality of education is poor and fails to reach a big slice of the population. In addition to this, infrastructures are in a deplorable condition and do not meet the necessary requirements for proper education. 

Young people often go to school in early childhood but are forced to abandon their studies to earn money. For many of them, schooling does not necessarily lead to learning. Guatemala has 22 Mayan languages, yet indigenous young people in particular cannot find educational resources in their native language. 

Despite limited access to the internet, most indigenous young people have a mobile phone and an interest in the virtual world, which they generally use to communicate with each other on social media, explore the world, receive training, continue their studies and share their culture.  Virtual spaces have enabled young people to develop initiatives and boost their creativity. 

Whilst it is true that the country does not meet all the requirements to provide unlimited nationwide internet access, the population does not have the culture of development in a digital world. Young people are looking for ways to communicate in virtual spaces that will enable them to keep in touch with their friends and other young people in remote areas. 

As an important stage in life, those in their youth should have all the necessary tools for realising their full potential. In the digital world, young leaders can find great training opportunities and can collaborate in reducing significant education gaps, which in countries like Guatemala, have been elemental in allowing the state to control its people through ignorance and a lack of opportunities, thus leading to poor education.  
In the digital era, indigenous young people can also find channels to share their culture.  The virtual world can be an excellent space to share the customs, needs, assertions and world views of indigenous peoples. Likewise, digital opportunities can also be a great tool for young people to strengthen their fight in demanding many of the rights that they have been denied as youths, as indigenous people and as dignified human beings.