Obtaining professional and technical IT workers from places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Central America is Costa Rica's "plan B" to cover high labor demands that the local market cannot meet when multinational IT companies require more employees, local ICT chamber Camtic president Alexander Mora told BNamericas.
Costa Rica's IT sector "is in full employment, just like before the [2008 worldwide financial] crisis," he said. "To meet the need for professionals and technicians, immigration is key, [and] Costa Rica has a friendly immigration law to allow IT professionals to come to the country.... They could even stay here on a one-year trial period until they get a job."
Costa Rica's contingency plans include educational programs with partnerships between universities, institutes and companies to work together to meet labor demands.
"Companies like IBM or Intel go to universities and align their needs with the university curriculums to create specializations, so companies are training students with the skills they need," said Mora.
Last week, IBM announced that it will invest US$300mn in the next 10 years to build a new IT delivery center. IBM intends to employ up to 1,000 people at this new facility by 2014 - an investment that could increase pressure on Costa Rica's existing IT workforce, Mora said, "but Costa Rica's high level of education and its reputation as an IT provider has given the country an advantage compared to others in the region."
POLITICS AND EDUCATION
Costa Rica is a "very lucky country" for having politicians who consider IT as a main driver for foreign investment and as a way to close social inequalities, according to Mora.
"This gives us a tremendous advantage compared to other countries in the region. We have such a privileged position that we managed to promote our country as an IT provider," Mora said.
According to the Camtic director, President Laura Chinchilla's background as a digital and IT promoter in congress has been key to current success.
"The president has a history with the technology sector. When she was a senator, she promoted the digital signature and the data protection law, as well as many other digital projects. She knows the positive impact of technology on a country's development in terms of attracting investment and competitiveness," Mora said.
"IBM is already operating here in the country, so this [announced US$300mn investment] is like opening a new division, as a way of continuing expanding.... This type of investment goes to show that things are fine in the country, that we're a leader in the region and that Costa Rica's development depends increasingly more on the digital sector," he added.