SecDev Group launches Open Empowerment Project in Latin America

The SecDev Group, one of the three partner institutions of the OpenNet Initiative, launched the Open Empowerment project in Latin America on May 29. The Open Empowerment project is a joint venture between the SecDev Foundation (Canada) and the Igarapé Institute (Brazil), with the support of the International Development Research Centre (Canada), and aims to develop policy-relevant and evidence-based research on the role of cyberspace in empowerment, security, development, and governance in the Latin America region.

With more than 40 per cent of its population online, and almost two-thirds of these users under the age of 35, Latin America’s internet usage is growing at one of the fastest rates worldwide. However, while cyberspace has proved to be a powerful mobilizer in the Arab world, this has surprisingly not been the case in Latin America, where a climate of fear has been enhanced by the growing consumption of social media. Across the region, cyberspace has become a new battleground for political movements, youth gangs, and drug cartels – using social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to challenge the state and target individuals.

The first publication of the Open Empowerment project, "A Fine Balance: Mapping Cyber (In)security in Latin America", examines this “new criminality” of cyberspace – specifically in organized criminal hacking, identity theft, advanced credit card fraud and online child exploitation, as well as the various ways in which these issues are being addressed in Latin America:

The Paper draws on a review of the public and grey literature from more than thirty countries and interviews with dozens of experts across the sub-continent to shed light on the present cyber-security and cyber-defence architecture being erected in Latin America. Overall, it finds that Latin America exhibits a heterogeneous landscape when it comes to cyber-crime. And while all countries have witnessed a surge in cyber-crime, threats and responses tend to be clustered in specific countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, where online populations and internet penetration rates are highest.

The full publication is available online.