A plan that would get all in Costa Rica who wanted it to be on the web.
This is a proposal to create a common, universal, multi-lingual web presence for all businesses and organizations within Costa Rica. This site is not intended to replace current private or government-run site. The intent is to augment these existing sites and encourage the creation of additional web presence in Costa Rica.
This site will include:
All of these features would be available free of charge to listed vendors as well as web users.
Some definitions are in order:
The basic vendor presence will include:
Additionally, the following services will be available on the site for a fee:
Those companies who do not have the interest or expertise in creating their own presence may contract with others to perform the task. A listing of Certified Content Providers (CCPs) which can perform this service will be available on the web site. This registration process will involve a small fee and will help ensure high quality entries.
Right now there are a whole host of different sites--some that cater to tourism, some that specifically address moving to Costa Rica, some that a specific to sale of real estate and so on. On the government end there is ICE's White Pages and pages of specific agencies such as CINDE.
Each of these sites has a specific purpose. Commercial sites tend to be built to make money for a particular segment of the economy whereas government sites tend to be there to decrease the cost and time involved in distributing information.
These are all well and good but, for the person searching for information, having one consistent way to search for that information rather than a long list possible locations is what is needed. In addition, as web technology evolves, the way of presenting information changes. Three examples here are: describe(
Rather than expect each web site to address these different technologies, incorporating these considerations into the design of one master site is more efficient for everyone as well as making it possible to more quickly offer all informaiton on Costa Rica in an up-and-coming format
While many private companies could develop the type of system being proposed here, there is a significant advantage to government involvement. Much like health care, the cost of multiple providers makes a single-provider solution optimal. One provider with equal treatment for anyone interested in the service adds significant credibility to the solution. This will both encourage businesses to participate and increase access volume.
That said, this system is not trying to compete with a private web presence for anyone wishing to have that presence. This system will act as the presence for anyone new to the web but will also act as a master index for everyone who has their own web site. Having such an index available for free will likely encourage companies who, up to now, have not been on the web to create their own sites.
This project will become self-supporting. By will become I mean that there will be startup costs but operational revenues will cover operational expenses with a surplus that will, eventually, pay back startup costs.
It is expected that much of the startup costs will be in the form of salaries. It is our intent to employ Costa Rican workers wherever possible. The other startup costs could be covered by either government or private investment as well as grants. There is nothing in this plan that dictates which must be done and, in fact, a combination of government and private financing may be the best solution. For example, it might be desirable that the government pay individual salaries and private financing and grants be used for equipment acquisition.
The development model I propose will minimize startup costs, encourage participation and help distribute revenues to those who see this system as good for all involved. Specifically, the use of contractors (Certified Content Providers) to help develop content makes this possible.
These companies or individuals will be offered an opportunity to seek whatever business they want with regard to vendor listings. Their fees will be paid by the vendors themselves. Their own business sense and ambition will determine their level of income from the project.
There are many sources of ongoing revenue. They include:
Direct Income Sources
Note that Certified Content Providers should receive a percentage of the ICON, banner ad and web space sales revenue. This will encourage them to offer this to their customers along with the development of the customer's free presence.
Indirect Income Sources
The Internet is clearly the wave of the future. Used correctly, it offers an amazing vehicle for promotion. Those who don't use it will be left out.
The goal here is to figure out how to reap the benefits of the Internet without spending heavily. It is also an advantage if any necessary spending can be done locally (within Costa Rica) rather than on outside equipment and services.
The purchase of computer hardware, much like automobiles, exports capital from Costa Rica. Any sort of Internet presence is going to require investing in computer hardware. The best approach here is to make sure that the correct decisions are made to optimize the use of that hardware.
The best way to optimize that hardware use is with efficient software. For example, a performance advantage of 10 to 1 is easily obtained by selecting efficient web server and database software. Larger advantages are possible by customization.
Like hardware, software purchases export money from Costa Rica. However, there is software available for free that will perform the necessary tasks to establish this web presence. Specifically, I am talking about:
The database selection decision can be delayed because it is possible in PHP to abstract the database interface. This means that all the programming can be done independent of which database is being used except one small interface module.
Note that the word free has two meanings here. Besides all of the proposed software being available at no cost, the source code is also included. This means that local modifications can be made the the code if desired and that you will never become victim to a software vendor's changing policies for new releases and support.
An additional advantage of using Linux is that Ticos will become familiar with Linux and can use it for other software projects within Costa Rica. This additional work will again decrease the amount of capital that will need to be exported and will create jobs.
Will there be opposition to this plan? No plan will appear to be the right answer for everyone. For example, the use of free software will be criticized proprietary software companies as well as hardware manufacturers. Why? Because they would benefit financially from an approach that included their products.
This approach is, however, better for Costa Rica and is, therefore, defensible.
The quick, condensed version, is that I want to promote Linux. This would be a great project to do that. It will be self-supporting (could even make a profit) so it is free Linux promotion.
In addition, if the project is a success in Costa Rica, similar projects could be spawned in other countries. Again, this all benefits the Linux community.
Basically, there are three reasons I am the right person to head up this effort:
Because of my long history with Linux I know and am respected by all the major players in the market. This means it is very likely that I could get companies to donate hardware and software to the project, significantly decreasing startup costs.
This paper is not intended to be a technical implementation plan. However, it is very important that those individuals who are evaluating the plan understand the scope of the project, the general organization and the general plan for implementation.
In addition, there will need to be some decisions make within the government as to how the government/private partnerships will work. This will require an understanding of some details.
The plan is to offer web space to every business entity in Costa Rica. According to the Mercantile Register's Office, there are about 284,000 companies registered. Information from CINDE indicates that official businesses amount for 43% of the total businesses in Costa Rica so it is safe to assume there is appoximately 660,000 total businesses.
I expect the site to grow fairly slowly at first as people begin to accept it and we certify more CCPs. As long as we design for the total possible data volumes it will be relatively easy to scale the hardware as the data volume and web traffic grows.
The project will be organized into the following phases:
Its two purposes are:
My hope is that we will be able to benefit from some of the learning and custom software involved in the implementation of the new Linux Journal web site which is currently in development. The programmer working on the Linux Journal site should be available in time to be a significant participant in this step.
In addition to programming efforts, documentation will be written. Getting Costa Ricans involved in this process will help them understand the site so they will better be able to provide ongoing support.
During this phase will will also set up the structure for certification of the web consultants and start certification.
The most logical approach here would be to implement a specific locale within Costa Rica. For example, the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area would offer a good mix of business types, the need for pages in various languages and could quickly act as a valuable resource. The tourist-heavy nature of the area would also offer good potential customers for advertising contracts and, thus, advertising revenue.
At this time, if we are confident that there are no serious problems, we can turn loose the force of Certified Content Providers to start adding other all locales. Thus, at production release time we will have country-wide content.
Once the pilot implementation has proved stable and any final performance issues have been addressed, its production time. Mainly, this process will consist of marketing what has been done--to new content providers that want to get certified, businesses and the expected readers.
As the majority of the business-related content will be provided by businesses themselves and certified content providers, most of the work here is continuing to monitor the system to make sure that it is performing as expected and continued marketing.
It is likely that during this whole process, there will be other features that are seen as desirable. At this time, these features can be reviewed and, if so decided, scheduled for addition to the site. For example, while the primary purpose of the site it to offer an index to businesses, the following areas will need to be addressed:
The design should make the addition of such features extremely easy.
Any system will require ongoing maintenance. This will include:
The scope of this project is to get every business entity in Costa Rica on the web. This means a design that offers expandibility. I feel the proposed organization will meet those requirements.
The hardware necessary to get the project into production consists of three web servers: one development server, one staging server and one production server. Additional production servers would be added as needed to handle load.
A first guess at an implementation schedule is:
A first guess at staffing requirements is: describe(
As the government controls Internet connectivity through RACSA the interface between RACSA and the private sector is the most significant. While it is completely possible to implement this system on private-owned servers located on other networks outside Costa Rica (and, for initial testing this could make a lot of sense) in the long-term it would seem that having RACSA host and support the necessary Linux-based servers would be in the best interest of everyone.
RACSA currently uses Sun Microsystems servers running Solaris which is a UNIX-based operating system. While Linux is essentially a clone of UNIX there are some differences. This means introduction of some new technology into RACSA facilities. Note that Linux itself in not new to government-related facilities as ICE currently uses it.
Certified Content Providers
The implementation plan calls for the certification of contractors to help businesses set up their web presence. We will refer to these individuals as Certified Content Providers. Some entity will have to be in charge of this certification process. While I see no real advantage of having the government performing this task, there must be agreement on who does this.
Sample Entry for Truckin Express, Inc.
This is very early in the specification process so this plan is extremely preliminary.
%%% add some sort of picture here somehow. Yes, I will invent something. If CorelDraw! just ran on Linux ... :-)