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Internet use in Costa Rica / Photo by Oleg Magni on Unsplash

Internet Use in Costa Rica Much Lower than OECD Average

The OECD’s Digital Economy Outlook for 2020 sheds some interesting light on internet use in Costa Rica.

According to a study published at the end of last week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), some 78.3% of Costa Ricans use the internet.

That’s an almost 10% lower rate than the 87% average internet use across the 38 OECD nations.

Of the 38 OECD nations, Costa Rica ranks 31st for internet usage as a percentage of population. Greece, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia all use the internet less than Costa Rica.

When broken down by age, some 90% of Costa Rican aged 16-24 use the internet.

Older Ticos, though, are not nearly online so much. The study finds that just over half (53%) of Costa Ricans aged 55 years and over use the internet.

The average percentage of over-55s using the internet across the other OECD countries is 71%.

Of all the OECD countries, Iceland is the most connected, with 99% of its citizens online.

The discrepancy in internet use between young and old comes down to education, according to the OECD.

The two countries with the highest share of daily users aged 55-74 (Iceland and Norway) have a relatively small gap between high and low levels of education (close to 10%),” they state in the report.

In the seven countries where more than 75% of adults aged 55-74 are daily users, there is still a gap of at least 21% between high and low levels. In countries with fewer daily users among the 55-74 age group, the educational gap is generally higher, i.e. above 60% in Poland, Portugal, Mexico or Turkey.

Another interesting fact about online life in Costa Rica from the study is that Ticos use the internet as a telephone more than anyone else in the OECD.

This jives with the popularity of apps like WhatsApp. 80% Costa Ricans who use the internet, use it in place of a telephone. The average across the OECD is 60%.

While Costa Ricans use the internet to communicate with each other, one thing they still don’t do is shop. Across the OECD countries, Costa Rica comes near the bottom for buying or selling online.

Les than 20% of Costa Ricans have ordered good or services online, compared with over 80% of people in the UK. For selling online as part of their income, only 10% of Costa Ricans participate.

These figures all come from 2019, pre-pandemic. With the prevalence of online work and telecommuting in Costa Rica since COVID-19, it’ll be interesting to see how this data changes next year.

The OECD invited Costa Rica into its ranks in May, but the legislature still needs to approve the appropriate funding to join.

James Dyde is the editor of He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

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