COSTA Rica, like all Latin America,has dropped compared to the rest of theworld in its capacity to use and produceinformation and communication technologies,displaced in rank by rising Asiancountries, according to a report releasedthis week by the World Economic Forum.Costa Rica ranked 61 out of 104 countriesin the forum’s 2004 NetworkReadiness Index, which ranks a country’spotential in information technologies. Theposition marks a 12-place slip for CostaRica, from 49 in 2003.The index measures a variety of factors,including: land-line and cell phoneavailability, Internet access in schools,quality of math and science teachers,availability of scientists and engineers,feasibility of opening a business andsophistication of financial markets.Business leaders pointed to the slipin rank as another failure of the country’sstate-run telecommunicationsmonopoly, the Costa Rican ElectricityInstitute (ICE).“WE are 20 points less than the countrieswith which we compete,” said EdnaCamacho, executive director of the CostaRican Investment Promotion Agency(CINDE).Information and communication technologiesare key in attracting NorthAmerican businesses interested in outsourcingservices – a booming industry,Camacho explained.“Many of these services can be doneanywhere – in the middle of the SaharaDesert; all you need is talent and technology,”she said.Costa Rica is in competition forattracting this outsourcing with Ireland,which ranked 22; India (39); Hungary(38); and Chile (35).COSTA RICA’S ranking of 61 ismore on par with – or, in Camacho’swords, “as bad as” – Mexico (60),Philippines (67) and El Salvador (70).“And many of these are taking importantsteps to advance. If we don’t to dothe same we will be really bad off,”Camacho said, stressing the need to passthe Central American Free-TradeAgreement with the United States(CAFTA), which would ultimately openICE to competition.Proactive reaction to the index resultsis necessary to increase competitiveness,agreed Augusto López, director of theWorld Economic Forum’s program forglobal competitiveness, who released theresults Wednesday.Asian countries, particularly numberone-ranked Singapore, have reactedstrongly to past studies and all moved upin this year’s index. The forward movementof Asian countries is one reason allLatin American countries fell in the index,López said.Costa Rica ranked particularly low inavailability of cell phones (99 out of 104countries) and new phone lines (98).The quality of education here keptCosta Rica from hitting rock bottom overall,with a ranking of 24.
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