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Costa Rica Puts Time and Attention into AI Development

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having a broad and deep impact on the way services are exported globally.

Be it for good or bad, there is no getting away from the reality that AI is an agent of disruption. One of the perennial front-runners of Nearshore outsourcing,  Costa Rica, appears to be adapting to the AI opportunity faster than most countries in the region.  Local companies are intensifying their AI development operations and a number of AI technologies are gaining traction there  – all of which will influence Costa Rica’s positioning in the next-generation of services delivery.

The Latin American nation of nearly five million has long been seen as a tech epicenter of Central America ever since Intel chose it to open the biggest microchip factory in the region in 1997, with an initial investment of US$800 million. This put the country on the map for other potential investors and things haven’t stopped since.

Internet of Things (IoT) and AI networking and tracking company GBT Technologies have operations in the country and are currently using it Costa Rican branch to test its Avant! AI Virtual Agent product – a device which is capable of understanding questions, then searching for relevant information to perform an analysis and advise with the best conclusions.

It is thought the product could be used by potentially include healthcare advisors, engineering design, customer service, financial analytics and more.

Their Costa Rica branch’s CEO, Salomon Ocon, tells Nearshore Americas: “It is no secret to anyone in the industry that Costa Rica is one of the major players in Latin America in the preferred shared services and outsourcing areas, which is one of the reasons the fortune 100 and 500 companies already established in the country have decided to expand their operations and include AI.”

Though what will the AI be used for? Well for a start, it goes hand in hand with big data, as a projects at the Smithsonian Institution in the U.S. and the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (ITCR) are showing.

The two are using the NVIDIA Corporation‘s tech to study big data analytics, computer vision and GPUs to deepen science’s access — and understanding — of botanical information.

“AI has been advancing in the medical, financial and big data areas. Although they are very different, AI and big data still do work well together. Since AI feeds off of data to strengthen its intelligence, and big data supplies the data needed to train the learning algorithms,” says Ocon.

Intel, which is currently responsible for 60% of the country’s research and development exports, is reportedly using AI-equipped drones to construct models of the forest terrain and calculate the amount of carbon being stored.

The drones are used to capture data which can be applied to solving environmental challenges by calculating the amount of carbon being stored based on tree height, health, biomass, and other factors.

More recent news includes global professional services firm Genpact annoucing plans to open a new finance and accounting delivery center in Heredia, Costa Rica as part of its expanding partnership with Walmart.

Genpact aims to accelerate Walmart’s digital transformation through the Cora platform – which “delivers strategic business value to help companies easily implement AI”, said to Genpact Chief Digital Officer, Sanjay Srivastava.

And Microsoft – which has had operations in the country for 24 years – has said it is committed to supporting Costa Rica’s digital transformation through Cloud and AI technology.

Microsoft Latin America President, César Cernuda even said that they “are convinced that technologies such as the Cloud and AI can be a powerful force capable of creating more opportunities in the region and in Costa Rica, where the IT market is predicted to continue growing and there is an advanced innovation ecosystem.”

Salomon OconThe bottom line is, development of AI is on the up in a nation once thought to be headed for saturation, and still holds the crown as the tech epicenter of Central America.

Ocon adds: “It’s hard to tell what the future holds in any matter, but I can say with certainty that Costa Rica has been consistently for over a decade delivering quality human talent, paired with all the very well known attributes this country and latitude possesses and you have a winning combination, and if we pair this with all the efforts the government and big players are putting towards the continuous progress of this sector of the economy, this country surely has a special place in the future for all AI and technological advancements.”

Ocon continues: “With companies like Amazon, HP, Intel and IBM amongst others, Costa Rica is very well positioned in Latin America to continue to lead the way.”

Mathew Di Salvo

Mathew Di Salvo is a contributing writer and editor at Nearshore Americas, based in Colombia.

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