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Brazzil - Software - August 2004
 

Linux Friendly Brazil

Twenty percent of all computers used by the Brazilian ministries
are running Linux and other open source software. In a few months
this number should grow to 100 percent. Through its Digital
Inclusion Program Brazil wishes to democratize the use of computers.
Government telecenters
are being created throughout Brazil
.

Leonardo Stavale


Brazzil
Picture The Brazilian government wants to expand the use of free source software in public service because it has lower costs and can be an important tool in the effort to achieve digital inclusion (close the digital gap) and boost technological development.

According to Gustavo Noronha, who coordinates informatics at Brazil's Ministry of Cities, a fifth of all the ministry's computers now run Linux and other free source software and all of them should be doing so by 2005.

The executive secretary of the Presidential Staff, Swedenberger Barbosa, says that the government is working on its Digital Inclusion Program (PBID) which has already got 58 government units using free source software and will use it to deliver computer knowledge to low-income families.

The PBID has three structural levels: so-called telecenters where free internet access is available, community management of telecenters and the use of free source software in telecenters to keep them economically viable.

The use of free source software is central to the PBID. Besides lowering costs (licenses and royalties), it gives users an incentive to develop their own technology and the country has an opportunity to achieve independence in information technology.

Comdex

Approximately 80 thousand qualified professionals in the informatics sector are gathered at the 13th IT (Information Technology) Brazil Comdex/Sucesu-SP 2004, which runs through August 20 in São Paulo.

Company representatives from 80 countries, including the United States, Spain, Singapore, Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea, China, and Taiwan, are participating in the event, which brings together exhibitors and buyers to do business.

The meeting also offers an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with and discuss new technologies.

The IT Brazil Comdex is one of the most important corporate encounters in the technology field in Latin America, under the international aegis of Comdex, which holds similar events in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

In Brazil the event is co-sponsored by the Computer and Telecommunications Users Society (Sucesu).

The commercial director of the IT Brazil Comdex, Marcus Faria, believes that more deals will be concluded this year than in 2003. "Despite the recessive market we face, we are optimistic that more business will be done than last year."

This year's fair occupies an area of 47,000 square meters (505,903 square feet), with 420 exhibitors, including 80 foreign exhibitors who seek partnerships in Brazil.

At this forum representatives of IT and telecommunications industries are discussing the next Internet generation (Internet Protocol - IP - version 6), to prepare the country for this new technology.

Industry Upgrade 

Brazil is making a concentrated effort to upgrade its computer industry. The effort seeks to generate more jobs requiring more skills, improving commercial relations with the international market and turning the sector trade deficit into a surplus.

According to Artur Nunes, at the Ministry of Science and Technology's Informatics Policy secretariat, Brazil remains a net importer of computer technology and pays US$ 1 billion in royalties annually for software use.

The international software market is worth US$ 257 billion annually. Brazil's presence in that market is modest. In 2000, while India exported software worth US$ 4 billion, Brazil exported a mere US$ 81 million.

Even so, today the sector employs 180,000 skilled workers and has enormous skilled-job generating potential. Nunes says there is a high level of excellence in Brazilian software programs, citing the country's electronic voting system, and income tax declaration collection, which takes place via Internet.

Annually some 20,000 students in Brazil finish technical or university level courses in informatics.

Free Software

Last November, Brazil's Ministry of Science and Technology announced that it had set up a pioneer work group with the objective of developing free software for use in the government.

This first group, consisting of twenty employees who underwent special training, is part of a broad effort by the Brazilian government to reduce costs by developing its own, free, software.

The project will reduce costs of licensing and updating privately owned software, as well as strengthen domestic Information Technology.

According to Paulo Sergio Bonfim, who is a system development coordinator at the ministry, savings will reach US$ 430 per workstation. As the ministry has 950 computers, that works out to an economy of US$ 405.500.

Digital Culture

The Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, spoke recently about the theme, Digital Culture and Development, in a welcoming lecture (aula magna) at the University of São Paulo (USP).

According to Gil, "digital culture is a new concept stemming from the idea that the digital technologies revolution is essentially cultural. What is implied here is that the use of digital technologies modifies behaviors; full use of the internet and free software creates fantastic possibilities for democratizing access to information and knowledge."

In the Minister's assessment, Brazil already possesses vast experience in the field of free software and digital inclusion, with hundreds of projects and even profound speculation in academic circles.

Gil sees the issue of free software, as well as the production and distribution of audiovisual materials, as a matter of national sovereignty.

"It is preeminently a cultural question and thus has to do with the projected nation we are constructing and with the appreciation of cultural diversity, citizenship, and the generation of income and jobs through creative and clean industries.

"Brazil has the opportunity to undertake a massive national movement in favor of digital freedom and become a world reference in the fight for free software."

The Minister affirmed that his Ministry is making efforts to guarantee, in its policies, strategic recognition of access to digital culture.

"We are developing projects that offer the possibility of universal access to information and knowledge through the full employment of telematic networks, such as the culture points and the new libraries that are part of the Hunger for Books program."


Leonardo Stavale 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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