Although the average Internet connection speed has tripled in Costa Rica in the last three years, it is still slower than the average speeds of other Latin American countries.
According to a study by cloud platform provider Akamai, the average Internet connection speed in Costa Rica in the last quarter of 2009 was 0.7 megabytes per second (Mbps), compared to 2.1 Mbps last year, which is barely above the 2 Mbps target for minimum download speeds.
The average peak connection speed in 2009 was 3.3 Mbps, which increased to 11.7 in 2012, a large leap.
While those numbers are somewhat good news for the country, the bad news is they aren't positive enough to rank well among the region's other countries. Costa Rica ranks lower in average connection speed than Guatemala (3.1 Mbps), Chile (3.8 Mbps), Mexico (2.8 Mbps) and Colombia (2.7 Mbps). On average peak connection speed, Costa Rica ranks 74th globally.
But the numbers are showing improvement. Average Internet speed has increased 11 percent quarterly and 43 percent annually, making Costa Rica one of the fastest growing countries in the region in terms of average Internet speed. If that pace keeps up, Costa Rica could jump from one of the slowest countries to one of the fastest.
"You have to look at where you're at, but also where you've come from. The year-over-year increases in Costa Rica have been really significant," said Craig Adams, site leader at Akamai Costa Rica.
Fast Internet access is crucial for economic and social development, Adams said.
"Akamai strongly believes that the Internet is a strategic asset for countries. Everything to do with enabling education, commerce, new business and jobs actually has a correlation to quality of life," he added.
Akamai opened an operations center in Costa Rica last November to help boost that development.
"Costa Rica has a vibrant technical community, it has a highly educated workforce in technology, there are lots of languages spoken here, and it is a country that is receptive to foreign investment," Adams said, describing the company's decision to open a center here.
According to Costa Rica's National Broadband Strategy, published by the Science, Technology and Telecommunications Ministry, improving broadband access can help boost productivity -- especially in the export sector -- and quicken the delivery of public services. It also leads to improvements in education, health care services and social inclusion, particularly in rural areas.
In 2010, only 6.2 percent of Costa Ricans had access to broadband, compared to better numbers in Chile (10.5 percent), Mexico (10 percent) and Argentina (9.6 percent).
Costa Rica has set a goal of 10 percent access and a minimum speed of 2 Mbps by 2014, increasing to 16 percent by 2016. If that goal is achieved, the country will be well positioned as a leader in the region.
The goal includes not only improving broadband access in homes and businesses, but also in schools and health care centers across the country. Officials hope to reach 100 percent territorial coverage in the next three years.
Gap Between Men and Women
Across the globe, there is a gap between the number of men and women who have Internet access, especially in developing countries. A recent study by microchip maker Intel, the United Nations and the U.S. State Department noted that for every 10 men who log on, only seven women do. The study recommends doubling the number of women with access to the Internet in developing countries to 1.2 billion in the next three years.
"Intel has been working for decades to improve education around the world, and Costa Rica has been no exception. If we can provide better tools for women and girls, the resources and opportunities that they need to achieve success, we can help transform their lives, their communities, the country and the world," Intel Costa Rica's Corporate Affairs Director Karla Blanco said.
Providing access to an additional 600 million women by 2016 could help boost the annual per capita GDP in 144 developing countries to up to $18,000, the study noted.
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