Costa Rica 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | FOCUS: NATIONAL PLAN 2015-2021

Costa Rica's PNCTI is a nationwide strategic plan that aims to apply technological solutions to the nation's most pressing issues.

Already known for its high-skilled workforce, Costa Rica has unveiled a National Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation (PNCTI) that maps the country's strategy for continued development of a knowledge-based economy. Scheduled to run from 2015-2021, the PNCTI is a comprehensive approach to ensuring that Costa Rica has the personnel and infrastructure to remain a regional leader in the science and technology sectors as the nation nears its bicentennial.

The PNCTI has several areas: health sciences, alternative energies, biotechnologies, natural capital, new materials, and digital technologies. These sectors were identified by a 100-member consultative group from the Ministry of Science and Technology (MICIT) in 2011 and reaffirmed in the 2014 plan for 2015-2021. Underpinning this are four sectors of the knowledge economy that the government hopes to implement: education and training, financial incentives and support system, communication infrastructure, and innovation systems.

Costa Rica's economy has experienced dramatic growth over the last few decades thanks to liberal economic policies that have invited foreign investment through tax incentives and free trade zones. This program has been widely successful in improving the nation's international standing, improving outcomes for citizens, and creating new partnerships with foreign countries. However, the Costa Rican government has recognized that continued innovation is necessary to maintain the current wave of economic growth. In recent years, Costa Rica's manufacturing and outsourcing industries have faced increasing competition from Asian countries. In response, Costa Rica has focused on high-tech, value-added industry to best utilize their high-skilled population. The PNCTI is a continuation of this economy-wide policy that aims to boost human capital, innovation, and productivity.

Innovation is a particularly important part of the plan because Costa Rica, and Latin America in general, have tended to lag behind the rest of the world in that regard. The UN's World Intellectual Property Organization 2016 Global Innovation Index had Costa Rica as the 45th-best country in the world for innovation, second in Latin America but still well behind the OECD countries that Costa Rica wants to emulate. Some of the biggest barriers to innovation include a lack of infrastructure and poor access to finance, which means that Costa Rican citizens with entrepreneurial and innovation skills are often unable to fulfill their potential. The PPNCTI has taken aim at this deficit by introducing a number of investment initiatives and policies.