Free software is already a reality in Brazil's government institutions. Civil
servants in federal, state, and municipal spheres are installing and managing
administrative structures with platforms and applications based on open sources.
To give civil servants
even better preparation, the First Week of Preparation and Training in Free
Software was initiated at the University of the Post Office, in Brasília,
on April 26. Over 2,200 civil servants are participating, free of charge,
in 150 technical training courses that continue through April 30.
More than just provide
training, the week is intended to expand the participants' familiarity with
open software, turning them into propagators of the knowledge and technology
related to open source platforms.
According to presidential
Chief of Staff, Minister José Dirceu, who took part in the opening
ceremony, the event is the fruit of a collective effort that began in the
Electronic Government Executive Committee to disseminate the culture of free
software, the universalization of information, and digital inclusion in the
"The challenge is
to transform this tool into a concrete instrument for the improvement of public
administration. Therefore, I ask all of you to pledge yourselves to pass along
all the knowledge you acquire here."
According to the president
of the National Institute of Information Technology (ITI), Sérgio Amadeu,
mastery of free software can place Brazil among the world's major technological
powers. For him, the option in favor of free software represents a cultural
change, an option for a new development model and the use of collective intelligence.
"The Week of Preparation
in Free Software is the beginning of a shift to a future that will surely
be a free future," he declared.
Weaning off Microsoft
Free Software replaces
proprietary software like Microsoft and Apple's operating systems and constitutes
an open technology that enhances the integration and autonomy of information
systems. For the government, this means reducing software costs and modernizing
national information technology.
Free Software is a computer
program that can be copied, distributed, used, and modified at will, representing
savings, for example, for municipal governments that pay for licenses to use
proprietary software installed in computers that use the Linux system and
the Open Office program.
Software is one of the
priority areas of the industrial policy announced by President Lula. According
to information from the Secretariat of Logistics and Information Technology,
in the Ministry of Planning, Brazil as a whole, between the government and
the private sector, spends around US$ 1.1 billion annually on licenses for
the use of proprietary software.
In the US, the space agency,
NASA, and the Army already use free software in their information systems.
Software for the
Brazil's Federal Data
Processing Service (Serpro) is developing a software program called Open Screen
that will convert written into spoken text. The program, which is especially
designed for people with visual deficiencies to navigate on the Internet,
will be distributed without charge.
Marcos Kinsky, a Serpro
analyst, said that the software may be available by the end of 2005. Brazil
has around 6 million people who are visually deficient, and this type of program
will guarantee their social and digital inclusion, Kinsky added.
Earlier this month, the
National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) announced its first
loan under the new Program for the Development of the National Software Industry
and Related Services (Prosoft).
The Bank will make US$
416 thousand available to the Powerlogic Consulting and Systems company, based
in the municipality of Nova Lima, in the state of Minas Gerais. The company
should use the loan to develop a new product line for the corporate site market,
as well as to create networks of sales, support, and publicity channels.
The total value of the
project, which is expected to take 24 months to be put in place, comes to
US$ 728 thousand. The assistance from the BNDES represents 57 percent of this
Prosoft, created in 1997
to give backing to investments made by domestic software companies, was completely
revamped to include "special rules that will allow the creation of conditions
favoring commercialization and export of national software, important instruments
for the consolidation of companies in the sector," informs a note from
the BNDES board of directors.
Prosoft investments are
projected to amount to US$ 34.6 million this year.
works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian
government. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.