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Gov’t unveils ‘Code for America’ app for Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's CIO Giancarlo González during his presentation in San Francisco.

Puerto Rico’s CIO Giancarlo González during his presentation in San Francisco.

A group of high-ranking officials participated Wednesday in the annual Code for America summit in San Francisco, where they unveiled an application known as “PrimerPaso” developed for Puerto Rico, to address government-specific problems.

A group of developers worked along side the government, which in October 2013 announced that Puerto Rico had been selected along with nine other cities or states to participate in the Code for America program. Through the fellowship, three programmers worked for 11 months with a government team headed by Chief Information Officer Giancarlo González to develop an application to simplify government processes by improving services offered to citizens, while spurring economic development.

Currently, the government of Puerto Rico provides more than $300 million in loans, programs and incentives for business development on the island. However, entrepreneurs and investors do not have a central access point for all these programs, with direct links to their respective government agencies and the details required to qualify.

The “PrimerPaso” application centralizes and consolidates more than 70 programs in one place, thus facilitating access to information and providing more agile processes.

The solution designed by Code for America, and with the support of the CIO’s office, the Puerto Rico Science and Research Trust, the Economic Development Bank and Puerto Rico Trade and Commerce, among others, works by a system of matching between the entrepreneur or investor and the different incentives programs available.

People have to answer 10 basic questions about their industry, business volume and personal data, and the system responds with programs, offered both the central government and municipalities, which could be beneficial according to their profile. The application presented Wednesday will be officially launched in November.

“One of the most valuable aspects that Puerto Rico’s participation in Code for America is that it put us on the map as a destination for technology development. Developers in cities or areas like Silicon Valley, today known of Puerto Rico and its capabilities through the exposure we’ve had through our participation in the fellowship program,” González said.

“In addition, our presentation at the Code for America Summit served as a platform to promote Puerto Rico as an investment destination, showing all the incentives we offer to promote entrepreneurship in the island,” he said.

The solutions developed by Code for America are open source, which means that any city in the world with a similar problem, can create their own version adjusted to local problems. This model allows to quickly develop solutions, while creating innovation capabilities within public administration.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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