10 Ways Costa Rica is Becoming a Thriving Technology Hub
Costa Rica is home to almost five million people and an active workforce that puts a great deal of emphasis on education. With the lofty goal of becoming a completely bilingual nation in the next decade, Costa Rica is encouraging students to pursue careers in the technology sector – and the results so far are impressive.
Costa Rica’s technology exports are high and hundreds of technology companies have set up offices in the country. In fact, 29 of the Fortune 100 companies have operations in Costa Rica, including Amazon, Intel, Dole, P&G, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, and many more.
Here’s a look at how Costa Rica established itself as a technology leader in the Americas and how it’s working to become the ‘Silicon Valley of Latin America.’
1. Costa Rica ranks high for entrepreneurial activity
According to the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute, Costa Rica ranks sixth in Latin America for entrepreneurial activity. Costa Rica is home to a highly-educated workforce and attractive incentives for investors.
For these reasons, businesses across a variety of technological sectors, including manufacturing, microchips, life sciences, software, and fintech, are flourishing in Costa Rica.
However, it’s not just technology companies that are booming in Costa Rica. Many non-technical entrepreneurs are also taking advantage of Costa Rica’s free trade zones and investment incentives to sell their products and services.
2. Costa Rica ranks high for English proficiency and technical education opportunities
More than 97% of Costa Rica’s population is literate, one of the highest rates in Latin America. Costa Rica also ranks as one of the highest English-speaking nations in Latin America, according to Education First.
The Costa Rican higher education system also ranks among the best in Latin America, and the Global Innovation Index lists Costa Rica as one of the most highly educated countries in the region. For instance, the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) and the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC) are both ranked among the most prominent technology universities.
Both universities offer majors in computer science, high precision engineering, and mechatronics. The INCAE Business School ranks as the second-best postgraduate university in Latin America.
3. San José, Costa Rica is home to more than 800 technology companies
San José, Costa Rica is home to more than 800 local and global technology companies. For example, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) manages its IT services for Procter & Gamble from Costa Rica. It is currently one of the largest private employers in the country.
San José also has plans to transform the city’s old, abandoned buildings into modern office complexes, retail spaces, and housing. The project will start in 2020 and once complete, technology giants such as Microsoft will be the first to operate from the campus, along with the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica.
4. Costa Rica is a haven for e-gambling
There are no license requirements to set up a gambling business in Costa Rica. Therefore, online sports betting or high stakes poker businesses are entirely legal. Approximately 200-300 online gambling businesses are operating in Costa Rica which are not regulated in any way. As a result, these businesses also do not pay any betting or gaming taxes.
5. Support for Costa Rican startups is on the rise
Costa Rica is startup-friendly and many incubators and accelerators are helping young companies scale and grow. For example, Telefonica’s Open Future program has provided mentorship, office space, and support to more than 22 startups so far.
Other startup support programs in Costa Rica include ParqueTec, an accelerator for startups focused on climate change, and Carao Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm that helps startups accelerate their growth.
6. Costa Rica will host its first-ever Internacional Startups Congress in 2019
Costa Rica will host its first-ever International Startups Congress in 2019 to bring together leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors to present their projects and share their ideas with an international community. The event will feature lectures, networking opportunities, discussion panels, and more.
7. Costa Rica exports US$3.3 billion in technology, information, and communication
In 2018, Costa Rica exported more than US$3.3 billion in technology, information, and communication which was equivalent to approximately 5.8% of GDP. This percentage is similar to what agricultural activity in Costa Rica generated. These exports went to the United States (60%), Europe (13%), and to other Central American countries (12%).
8. Guanacaste is Costa Rica’s emerging tech hub
In recent years, the Costa Rican province of Guanacaste has experienced an uptick in technological activity. Tech companies such as Ad Astra Rocket, an American rocket propulsion company, Avantica, a software development company, Unidad 22, a web design company, Nimiq, a blockchain developer, and the Continum Data Center have all set up shop in the coastal region.
The high quality yet low cost of living and proximity to the US are all factors attracting tech companies to Guanacaste.
9. Costa Rica’s medical technology sector is booming
In 2017, medical devices were Costa Rica’s number one export. There’s nine times the number of life science companies in Costa Rica today than there were in 2009 and approximately 72 life science multinationals are operating and exporting products and services from the country. Since 2003, Boston Scientific has invested more than US$130 million in Costa Rica to manufacture its medical products at two facilities.
"Costa Rica has proven to be a compelling, performance-driven location for Boston Scientific. Key drivers for our success at two major sites in Costa Rica include highly committed, multi-disciplined local talent; cross-divisional engagement; growth into R&D, process development and lab competencies; and our close working relationship with CINDE, academia, and the government of Costa Rica.”
– Randy Schiestl, Vice President of Global Technology at Boston Scientific
10. Costa Rica is crypto-friendly and allows workers to be paid in cryptocurrency
Many Latin American countries have limited cryptocurrency activity or outright banned it altogether. Costa Rica, however, is an exception in the region and welcomes cryptocurrency innovation. In fact, it’s legal for employers in Costa Rica to pay their workers in cryptocurrency, according to Article 166 of the labor code. Blockchain and crypto projects operating in Costa Rica include Green Earth Zero, and BlockchainCR.
Costa Rica is quickly rising as a key technology hub in the Americas. For a look at other technology hubs across the region, check out our latest eBook, 200+ Fast Facts about Technology in Latin America.