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Brazzil - Technology - August 2004

Brazil's Answer to Digital Inclusion

The Brazilian government plans to install 6,000 computer centers
around the country by the end of 2007. If this target is met, 18
million low-income Brazilians will have access to the Internet.
To save money Brazil will forgo Microsoft Windows and other
paid software and adopt instead free software like Linux.

Gabriela Guerreiro


Picture By the end of next year, three million Brazilians who live in places rated low on the Human Development Index (HDI) will have access to computers, internet, and basic training courses in the informatics field.

The goal of the Brazilian Program of Digital Inclusion is to install a thousand telecenters throughout the country in 2005, each one capable of serving 2.5 thousand to 3 thousand people.

Each telecenter will be provided six computers linked together in a network, with instructors on hand to give informatics classes, in addition to various cultural and scientific activities intended for the community.

There are currently at least 300 telecenters in operation around the country, 108 of them in São Paulo alone. The federal government's idea is for the telecenters to congregate activities developed by various federal government Ministries and agencies.

"The telecenters will not only make access to the internet available. The idea is to have a model that involves the community, so that it can choose the activities," explained Sérgio Amadeu, President of the National Institute of Information Technology (ITI), tied to the Presidential Civilian Advisory Staff.

Amadeu believes that the digital inclusion program will make sure that the government attains its goal of installing 6,000 telecenters around the country by the end of 2007—as projected in the Pluriannual Investment Plan (PPA).

If this target is met, by the end of this period 18 million low-income Brazilians will be able to obtain technical training in the field of informatics and permanent access to the Internet.

Amadeu recalls successful examples of telecenters in communities that received this benefit. A group of young people in Lajeado, state of São Paulo, for example, began producing a monthly newspaper for the community.

And residents of the Santa Lúcia neighborhood in the city of São Paulo organized a dance contest among users of the telecenter, thus removing a large portion of young people from the streets.

"President Lula's government will use information technology to enhance Brazilians' capacity to improve their living conditions, to communicate with one another, and will take advanced technology to poor areas so that it can serve as a tool to overcome the conditions that maintain the population in poverty," Amadeu emphasized.

The Brazilian government also hopes to be able to use free software programs, permitting the utilization of computer programs without the need to pay royalties to the manufacturers.

"If we use free software, we shall save millions of reais and dollars. Free software also makes it possible for a group of trained young people to have access to program codes and thus advance their training even more," he pointed out.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said recently that what Brazil needs are good partners so as to produce more and better information. Speaking at the inauguration of a Hewlett-Packard Technology Services Export Platform, Lula said Brazil has the capability and creativity to achieve digital inclusion.

"We do not want to be a developing nation forever. So we are moving ahead. We are going beyond being an exporter of raw material. We want to export knowledge and cutting edge technology," said the President.

The government's target is to export US$ 2 billion annually in software by the year 2007. At the moment, Brazil exports a mere US$ 100 million in software even though the country is the world's seventh largest market for software.

2004, High Tech Year 

At a luncheon sponsored by the Association of Brokerage Firms, on August 2, in São Paulo, the Brazil's Minister of Development, Luiz Fernando Furlan, affirmed that 2003 was the year of exports and that 2004 is the year of industrial policy and development.

He pointed out that the keynotes of industrial policy are modernization, innovation, and technological development.

"There is nothing wrong with our being world champion in soybeans, meat, sugar, orange juice, and many other products, but we also have to invest in innovation, diversification, and added value, and, most of all, we have to fight for space in the new economy," the Minister said.

Along these lines, he recalled that one of the government's goals is to export US$ 2 billion in informatics services and software programs by 2007. Compare this to India, which exports US$ 8 billion in software a year. "This represents a tiny share of world trade, but it can generate 60 thousand high-paying jobs in Brazil."

"We are very poor in communication and zero in marketing," Furlan declared, referring to trade promotion.

According to him, Brazil has a likable image abroad, that of a relaxed population that enjoys the beach, has good music, adores soccer, and drinks small cups of coffee several times a day.

"To use an old expression, it's a nifty image, but when you think about other countries, what comes to mind?" he asked.

The Minister recalled that Germany is not associated with beer drinkers, but with technology. By the same token, Japan is not associated with geishas and sake, but with technology, creativity, and efficiency. When Italy is referred to, fashion, design, and creativity come to mind, he added.

"We need to discover our vocation. We are a nation that possesses creativity, design, fashion, and technology. Brazil is capable of being a leader in biotechnology. But the world is unaware of what we do," he concluded.

Brazilian Lesson

Representatives and e-gov coordinators from 16 Latin American countries learned recently about Brazil's free software policy and various electronic government programs developed in the country, such as the Br@sil information network, comprasnet (government purchases), receitanet (federal taxes), prevnet (social security), electronic balloting, and digital certification.

The participated in the international seminar "Electronic Government Experiences in Brazil" held in May in Brasília. The meeting marked the consolidation of a forum for permanent dialogue with the countries of Latin America, to produce integration projects based on the most effective joint electronic government proposals for the region.

According to the executive secretary of Electronic Government and secretary of Logistics and Information Technology in the Ministry of Planning, Rogério Santanna, there is no longer any justification for performing a series of multilateral procedures manually, especially when they involve questions of frontiers, customshouses, and foreign trade.

"Electronic government can expedite trade in the region, control processes, and reduce costs," he affirmed, pointing out that 14 percent of what it costs to import an item is generated by the processing of papers and documents.

"We have the important task of promoting the interoperation of electronic government services in various countries in this integration effort. This is the reason for the Brazilian government's concern with promoting adequate standards of interoperability for these services to become interconnected in Brazil and Latin America," the secretary affirmed.

According to Santanna, there is a strong movement to establish an electronic government project in Brazil that really reaches the most excluded segments of the population, to make the services universal and accessible from any place, at any time, and under any circumstance.

The seminar, which was sponsored by the Ministry of Planning, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Cooperation Agency of the Organization of American States (IDCA/OAS), is keyed to the disclosure of experiences, the stimulation of partnerships with the private sector, and the training and qualification of human resources.

The following countries participated in the seminar: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Gabriela Guerreiro works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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