[Fsfe-ie] Brazil: Free Software's Biggest and Best Friend
ian at locut.us
Tue Mar 29 12:23:40 CEST 2005
Right now who wants to bet that the CIA is working on a new version of
its exploding Cuban cigar for this da Silva character :-)
On 29 Mar 2005, at 11:14, Teresa Hackett wrote:
> Brazil: Free Software's Biggest and Best Friend
> By TODD BENSON
> BENSON&inline=nyt-per> New York Times
> March 29, 2005
> S<http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/s.gif> ÃO PAULO, Brazil,
> March 28 - Since taking office two years ago, President Luiz Inácio
> Lula da Silva has turned Brazil into a tropical outpost of the free
> software movement.
> Looking to save millions of dollars in royalties and licensing fees,
> Mr. da Silva has instructed government ministries and state-run
> companies to gradually switch from costly operating systems made by
> Microsoft and others to free operating systems, like Linux. On Mr. da
> Silva's watch, Brazil has also become the first country to require any
> company or research institute that receives government financing to
> develop software to license it as open-source, meaning the underlying
> software code must be free to all.
> Now Brazil's government looks poised to take its free software
> campaign to the masses. And once again Microsoft may end up on the
> By the end of April, the government plans to roll out a much
> ballyhooed program called PC Conectado, or Connected PC, aimed at
> helping millions of low-income Brazilians buy their first computers.
> And if the president's top technology adviser gets his way, the
> program may end up offering computers with only free software,
> including the operating system, handpicked by the government instead
> of giving consumers the option of paying more for, say, a basic
> edition of Microsoft Windows.
> "For this program to be viable, it has to be with free software," said
> Sérgio Amadeu, president of Brazil's National Institute of Information
> Technology, the agency that oversees the government's technology
> initiatives. "We're not going to spend taxpayers' money on a program
> so that Microsoft can further consolidate its monopoly. It's the
> government's responsibility to ensure that there is competition, and
> that means giving alternative software platforms a chance to prosper."
> Microsoft has offered to provide a simplified, discounted version of
> Windows for the program. Though a final decision on which software to
> install has been delayed several times, as has the program's rollout,
> Mr. Amadeu and some other government officials have publicly
> criticized Microsoft's proposal, calling the version's abilities too
> Still, Microsoft has not given up just yet. The company, which
> declined to make an executive available for an interview, said in a
> statement that it was still "working with the PC Conectado project to
> see if there's a way Microsoft can help."
> Under the program, which is expected to offer tax incentives for
> computer makers to cut prices and a generous payment plan for
> consumers, the government hopes to offer desktops for around 1,400
> reais ($509) or less. The machines will be comparable to those costing
> almost twice that outside the program.
> Buyers will be able to pay in 24 installments of 50 to 60 reais, or
> about $18 to $21.80 a month, an amount affordable for many working
> poor. The country's top three fixed-line telephone companies -
> Telefónica of Spain; Tele Norte Leste Participações, or Telemar; and
> Brasil Telecom - have agreed to provide a dial-up Internet connection
> to participants for 7.50 reais, or less than $3, a month, allowing 15
> hours of Web surfing.
> The program aims at households and small-business owners earning three
> to seven times the minimum monthly wage, or about $284 to $662. The
> government says seven million qualify, and it hopes to reach a million
> of them by year-end.
> That may seem ambitious in a developing country of 183 million people
> where only 10 percent of all households have Internet access and just
> 900,000 computers are sold legally each year. (Including black-market
> sales, the number is closer to four million, still a small fraction of
> the number sold in the United States last year, according to the
> International Data Corporation, a technology research firm.)
> "We're well aware that we're talking about doubling the domestic
> market for personal computers," said Cezar Alvarez, the presidential
> aide in charge of the PC Conectado program. "But it's absolutely
> Some analysts have questioned the effectiveness of such programs,
> noting that some similar projects in Asia have become bogged down in
> red tape and, in some cases, have ended up favoring the elite. In
> Malaysia, for instance, the government is introducing a second
> affordable-computer program after its first attempt failed because of
> poor planning and fraud - something Brazilian officials say they are
> working hard to prevent.
> Others say the government should focus its technology initiatives
> elsewhere, especially in schools. Only 19 percent of Brazil's public
> schools have computers.
> The government says it plans to complement the PC Conectado program
> with stepped-up efforts to put more computers into schools. It is also
> investing $74 million to open 1,000 community centers in poor
> neighborhoods by year-end with computers that run free software
> programs and offer free Internet access - supplementing similar
> programs by local governments and nongovernmental organizations.
> The drive to bridge the digital divide has drawn widespread praise
> throughout the technology industry. But the preference for open-source
> software has been controversial, with critics inside and outside the
> government saying Mr. da Silva's administration is letting leftist
> ideology trump the laws of supply and demand.
> "The government shouldn't be the one who decides what hardware and
> software will go into these computers," said Júlio Semeghini, a member
> of Congress from the opposition Social Democratic Party. "That's
> The open-source route, however, has support beyond the da Silva
> administration. Walter Bender, the executive director of the Media Lab
> at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose opinion was
> solicited by the Brazilian government, replied in a recent letter that
> "high-quality free software" has proved more effective in stimulating
> computer use among the poor than scaled-down versions of proprietary
> Though he said he did not oppose giving consumers a choice, he
> concluded that "free software provides a basis for more widespread
> access, more powerful uses and a much stronger platform for long-term
> growth and development."
> Whatever the government decides, most industry analysts agree that the
> program will probably help combat software piracy, which is widespread
> in Brazil.
> And by wooing new consumers, "even if the program doesn't reach its
> goals, it's going to end up stimulating the computer and software
> markets," said Jorge Sukarie, president of the Brazilian Association
> of Software Companies. "It's not perfect, but it's certainly better
> than nothing."
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