Democracy in action

Yesterday, a new president of Costa Rica was sworn in during a televised ceremony that was a model of the democratic process that you take for granted in western countries but not at all in most of Latin America.

There are multiple reasons why this interests me. First of all, I lived in Costa Rica for much of the 1980s and new president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias was also Costa Rica’s president for much of the time when I was there. Now he’s back again after a near 20-year gap (for concise background on why, see this BBC analysis).

My wife Laura (who’s Costa Rican/British) was especially keen as she could watch the inauguration ceremony live on her computer via an internet broadcast.

So she had multiple browser connections open to TV stations in Costa Rica – state-owned Canal 13 and commercial broadcaster Teletica Canal 7 – who were broadcasting live via the net. Just as well our DSL broadband connection here in Amsterdam is a pretty fat one!

Canal 13’s broadcast was free to all, but the video quality was poor especially at full screen (as the picture of Oscar Arias above probably indicates, taken with my Nokia N70). Plus overall content is far more limited with this broadcaster.

In contrast, Canal 7 has an interesting deal. You sign up and pay $20 via PayPal and you then get high-quality live video that you would not be able to get otherwise unless you were in Costa Rica and could receive the TV signal. That $20 is credited for access to a wide range of other video content, again not available without that subscription.

Not an unusual business model and highly appealing to Ticos (and people like me) who are outside the country and have a strong desire to see, live, what’s going on in an event like a presidential inauguration.

The quality of Canal 7’s video was very good, even in full-screen viewing (this pic shows the Canal 7 website where you can see a live video feed in a window).

Unfortunately, at the time of the actual presidential handover ceremony, Canal 7’s servers or their video data link to the US must have been heavily overloaded as we couldn’t keep a connection going. Hence Canal 13’s photo of the new president rather than Canal 7.

In any event, I found it great to be able to see the action in Costa Rica as it was happening, in real time.

Democracy and technology in action.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.