Saturday, April 14, 2007

Brazil: Linux by Policy

“… Every licence for Windows and Office in Brazil – a country where 22 million people starve – means we have to export 60 bags of soy beans. For the rights of use of one and a half year, until the next upgrade, for one copy of Windows and Office, we have to cultivate, sow, reap and export that much soy. When I tell this to the farmers, they go nuts …” – Marcelo Délia Branco, coordinator of the Free Software Project. [1]

This argument made the Lula da Silva administration decide in 2005 to concentrate policy involving digital development around one key aspect: Free and Open Source Software. Linux is an example of FOSS and is a computer operating system, just like Windows. The difference is that the source code is available to everyone, and can be improved by everyone. The result is a program that is more stable then corporate Windows and with less bugs, which is the main reason why it is used at servers of big corporations like Google. The principle of FOSS was defined in 1989 by Richard Stallman in the General Public Licence as a part of the GNU project. So FOSS is in fact everyone’s property, and there are no licences involved.

These principles made the Brazilian government decide in 2005 to switch to FOSS for all governmental institutions, for which a letter of intent was signed with IBM. Also a demand was put to all institutions or corporations that are subsidised by the federation to develop their software as FOSS. Brazil is fertile ground for FOSS. The grassroots movement that promotes the use of FOSS is strong and there are a number of companies that already make a thorough use of it. Petrobrás, Brazil’s biggest company, and also Banco Real (ABN AMRO) and HSBC [2] are some examples. There are even cash dispensers that are operated with FOSS.

Microsoft is rightly worried about Brazil’s policy on information technology. Bill Gates has tried on several occasions to speak about the matter to president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, like at the World Economic Forum in January 2005 in Davos, Switzerland. Also, Microsoft reacted by offering a cheaper, more simple version of Windows XP, but after the government rejected saying the program was not suitable for their purposes Microsoft started to issue the program for free to local authorities and computer projects for the poor. The relationship with Microsoft plummeted when the coordinator for the use of Linux within the government, Sérgio Amadeu da Silveira (a sociologist, like Cardoso), of the National Institution of Information Technologies marked the strategy of Microsoft as “… drug dealer practices, a Trojan horse, the insurance of critical mass to keep the country strangled …“. [1] Initially Microsoft protested against the accusations, but under public pressure the protest was retrieved.

[1] We Pledge Allegiance to the Penguin – Julian Dibbell – Wired Magazine – November 2004
[2] The Penguin Advances – Marineide Marques

1 comment:

Jason said...

Brazil developing very fast! It is very good! And people from whole world investing money in Brazil economy or in Brazil property! I want to vizit Brazil! I know that it is very beautiful and exotic country! Maybe next summer!