Tendências emergentes, factos e dados reveladores da evolução dos media, cultura, economia e sociedade. Impacto social, económico e cultural da tecnologia.


domingo, junho 05, 2005

UN Battle over Open Source Software


The government here has its eye on a UN summit on information technology, to take place in Tunisia in November.

Already, Brazilian diplomats are pushing for a final declaration that would stress the advantages of open-source software.

They have won the backing of India and are now canvassing broader support from the developing world.

"It would be wrong to portray this as a personal war against Bill Gates," cautions Mr Cerqueira Cesar.

"But I think free software will encourage Mr Gates to reinvent his business. The world of technology is opening up; there are hundreds of thousands of people working to improve free software. The old, closed model must adapt in order to survive."

Increasingly, Brazil's government ministries and state-run enterprises are abandoning Windows in favour of 'open-source' or 'free' software, like Linux.

"The number one reason for this change is economic," says Sergio Amadeu, who runs the government's National Institute for Information Technology.

He explains that, for every workstation, the government is currently paying Microsoft fees of around 1200 Brazilian reais ($500; £270).

"If you switch to open source software, you pay less in royalties to foreign companies," explains Amadeu. "And that can count for a lot in a country like Brazil, which still has a long way to develop in the IT sector."

Overall, the government reckons it could save around $120m a year by switching from Windows to open-source alternatives.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is studying a draft decree which, if approved, would make the change compulsory for federal departments.

For Mr da Silva, this is a vital development issue in a country where nine out of ten people have never used the internet.

Through tax breaks, his government is subsidising the sale of computers to low-income families. For as little as $550, paid in instalments, they can buy a basic machine which operates using open-source software.

"Open-source alternatives are a great opportunity for developing countries," says Jose Luiz de Cerqueira Cesar, head of IT at Banco do Brasil. "If computer users within a geographical region pool their expertise, they can develop software that is perfectly suited to their needs."

Mr Cerqueira Cesar is a leading light behind the newly-created "Global Organisation for Free Software," which has been set up by a broad coalition of Brazilian businesses and NGOs. More details are being released this week at an International Forum on Free Software, in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.

The aim of the new organisation is to encourage greater cooperation and the sharing of ideas among governments, businesses and individuals within the developing world.

On a smaller scale, that is already happening in Brazil, which has seen some ingenious attempts to span the so-called "digital divide" between the developed and developing worlds.

One successful example is the "Recycling Goal" project, which extends computer technology into the shanty-towns or "favelas" on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

"We have 80 computers here, all donated by Brazilian businesses," says the project organiser, Dalton Martins. Around him, children and teenagers from the Sacadura Cabral favela are tapping away on brightly-painted keyboards.

Dalton explains that open-source software is an essential to the project: partly because it drastically reduces costs; and partly because it can be modified to suit local needs.

"We use Linux," he says, "which means we've been able to customise the graphics and language content. Life has a special reality here, and we need to build technology that works for the community."

Dalton adds that Windows does not offer the same level of flexibility, because its source code - the raw material of a program or operating system - is kept secret.


BBC NEWS | Business | Brazil adopts open-source software


Add a comment