Home Latin America 2006 e-Brasil – accelerating socioeconomic development in Brazil

e-Brasil – accelerating socioeconomic development in Brazil

by david.nunes
Peter T. Knight
Roberto Aroso
Issue:Latin America 2006
Article no.:3
Topic:e-Brasil – accelerating socioeconomic development in Brazil
Author:Peter T. Knight and Roberto Aroso
Title:Peter T. Knight, Coordinator, e-Brasil Project, and Roberto Aroso, President
Organisation:TELECOM – Associação Brasileira de Telecomunicações
PDF size:268KB

About author

Peter T. Knight is the coordinator of the e-Brasil Project, President of Telemática e Desenvolvimento Ltda., and a partner of Telematics for Education and Development. Before joining the private sector, he led the World Bank’s Electronic Media Center, and was the Chief of the National Economic Management Division in the Bank’s Economic Development Institute (EDI), and Lead Economist for Brazil. He has published extensively in various languages, his latest book is Rumo ao e-Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Garamond, 2006). He is a member of the Board of the Journal of E-Government. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford University, and holds degrees in Government from Dartmouth College (US) and in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University (UK).

Roberto Aroso is President of TELECOM – Associação Brasileira de Telecomunicações, the Brazilian Telecommunications Association. Mr Aroso is also the Coordinator of post-graduate courses in telecommunications at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), and President of Aroso & De Laurentis Consultores Associados Ltda. He is currently a member of the Council of FUCAPI – the Foundation and Centre for Analysis, Research and Technological Innovation – in Manaus, Amazonas. Mr Aroso served previously as a Director of Comcast, Nextel and of Promon. Prior to the privatisation of Brazil’s government-controlled Telebras System, he led the local operating companies in the states of Parana, Paraíba, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, and led Embratel’s Digisat Project for international high speed data in Brazil. He received his BSc. in Electronics Engineering from the Universidade do Brasil, and earned degrees in Marketing from the Fundação Getúlio Vargas, and Nuclear engineering from CNEN in Rio de Janeiro.

Article abstract

Brazil, today, lacks a unifying vision of its development objectives and suffers from social problems rooted in a highly unequal distribution of income, education and wealth. Addressing these problems is crucial to the country’s economic growth and political stability. A national e-development strategy based upon everything over IP cannot solve all of Brazil’s problems. It can, however, improve governance, increase social inclusion, facilitate lifelong learning, improve public health and safety, streamline judicial processes, build knowledge industries, and cut transaction costs across the economy.

Full Article

Brazil, today, lacks a unifying vision of its development objectives. The country suffers from social problems rooted in a highly unequal distribution of income, education, and wealth that cuts economic competitiveness, threatens social cohesion, and undermines public safety. Brazil’s deep social and economic inequalities have only begun to be addressed, and addressing them is crucial to realize the country’s economic potential and to secure its political stability. The country is undergoing its worst political crisis since it re-democratized in the 1980s. Public frustration with crime, corruption, unresponsive political institutions, tortoise-like judicial systems, and lack of economic opportunities is rampant. There is no real consensus on development strategy among key elites or the public at large. With federal and state elections scheduled for October 2006, it is the right time to promote a national debate about how to accelerate the country’s economic and social development. IP and other information and communications technologies, ICT, can and should play a critical role in this process. Over the past 25 years, economic growth has been unsteady and averaged less than half the 5.5 per cent rate reached over the period 1920-1980. Brazil’s growth has also been much less than that of India and China, to mention two large and complex countries. The Asian ‘Tigers’, Chile and Costa Rica in Latin America, and some European countries like Finland and Ireland also did better than Brazil (Table 1). When average growth rates of GDP at purchasing power parity, PPP, over the period 1991-2003 are projected over the period 2004-2115, the results are dramatic (Figure 1). Among the giant emerging countries that do not form part of major trading blocs – Brazil, Russia, India, and China (often referred to as BRIC), Brazil remains slightly ahead of Russia in GDP, India forges ahead, and China’s economy will surpass the US in 2011. This is not a scenario to which most Brazilians can aspire. There is a need for a new development vision with a mobilizing power similar to that which inspired Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek’s (1956-61) campaign slogan – ‘Fifty years of progress in five’ and his ‘Plan of Goals’ (Plano de Metas) for his government. Building the automobile industry, a national highway network, and a new capital, Brasília, in the nation’s heartland, played central roles in Kubitschek’s vision. JK, as he was known, is still one of the most popular of Brazil’s presidents. Accelerating Brazil’s development has many dimensions, but addressing major problems holding back that development must take on a central role. These problems include: 4 inequality in wealth, income, and access to knowledge and health care; 4 a judicial system which is extremely slow working and often leads to impunity; 4 inadequate public safety; 4 an unattractive environment for private sector investment; 4 lack of transparency in government, which provides opportunities for corruption; 4 institutionally fragile bureaucracies, which are insufficiently responsive to development requirements and citizens’ needs; and 4 major interest groups/elites and citizens lack a shared vision of the society and economy they want, and the strategies, tactics, public policies, and programs that will realize these visions. Innovative governments – good examples are Canada, China, Finland, Ireland, South Korea, and Singapore – have shown that ICT can help accelerate economic and social development. Recently countries in South Asia, with Sri Lanka and India in the lead, have begun developing national e-development strategies and attracting financing for their implementation from the World Bank, and other international and domestic sources of funding. e-Development defined An e-development strategy goes well beyond an e-government framework, but includes it – as set out in a paper published by Nagy Hanna in 2003.1 Among the reasons Hanna cites for adopting this broader approach are that it moves beyond: 4 sectoral components, to overcome systemic problems which cut across sectors; 4 ministerial silos, to create e-government frameworks, common infrastructures, databases, standards, interoperability; and 4 technology, to promote a cross-sector, holistic approach with synergies between policy, information infrastructure, human resources, e-government, e-commerce, tele-centres, content, and software services. A national e-development strategy can be defined to reach a wide variety of goals such as improving governance, connecting with citizens, securing social inclusion, and drastically cutting transaction costs across the economy. Leadership, vision, consensus formation, policies, and institutions play a central role in strengthening human resources, harnessing information infrastructure, promoting the ICT industries, and spurring ICT applications in government, business and society (Figure 2). Enlightened leadership is crucial to drive policy reforms and institutional change. With an e-development strategy and leadership, it is possible to: 4 focus scarce public resources; 4 sequence and phase complementary investments; 4 build partnerships between key development institutions in the public sector, private sector, civil society organizations, academic and research institutions, and in the media; 4 integrate e-development into national development and competitiveness strategies; 4 provide a framework for donor coordination in ICT, allowing exploitation of network effects; 4 establish a framework to enable pilots, bottom-up initiatives, shared learning and scaling up of successful projects and programmes; and 4 link e-development to broader national goals and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals2. Toward an e-development strategy for Brazil We believe that international experience can offer useful lessons for Brazil – not only in the application of ICT as a major thrust of development strategy, but also in how consensus can be built to realize e-development visions. The development of the information society in Brazil was the subject of a pioneering effort by a team led by Tadao Takahashi and the Ministry of Science and Technology, which produced the well-known ‘Green Book’ in the year 2000.3 The subject of e-government in Brazil was treated in a pioneering manner in e-gov.br – a próxima revolução brasileira. Contributions by 44 specialists documented and analyzed Brazil’s achievements in building an information society and conducting a wide range of e-government activities in education, health, public safety, justice, elections, legislation, public administration, and digital inclusion. Brazil’s major regions and the federal, state and local governments were covered. The time has come to extend the vision of e-government presented in e-gov.br – a próxima revolução brasileira and develop a broader e-development strategy based on EoIP, Everything over IP, which we call e-Brasil. EoIP is not a panacea for all Brazil’s problems. It can, however, provide increasingly powerful tools for reaching key objectives – improving governance, connecting with citizens, increasing social inclusion, facilitating lifelong learning, improving public health and safety, streamlining judicial processes, creating competitive knowledge industries, and drastically cutting transaction costs across the economy. Specifically, the e-Brasil Project aims to develop and start implementation of this new EoIP-enabled development strategy, and is conducting systematic research on the best international and Brazilian practices in e-development. The year 2006 is a key election year in Brazil. Elections are being held in October for President, the Federal Chamber of Deputies, part of the Federal Senate, Governors of Brazil’s 26 states, and for state legislatures. The e-Brasil team is organizing conferences, seminars, courses, speeches, publications, and a strategic communication campaign in the print and electronic media – to foster national debate about a new development vision for Brazil. A small book, Rumo ao e-Brasil (Toward e-Brasil), was published in May 2006 to help promote the project.4 The e-Brasil project will publish a book in Portuguese – called e-Brasil – in September 2006. An English version will be published later. This book includes chapters on international and Brazilian best practices in e-development prepared for an international conference held in May 2006, with suggestions for new public policies and a national e-development strategy for Brazil. During 2007, the e-Brasil team and the Brazilian Telecommunications Association – TELECOM – will work with newly-elected state and federal governments to develop policies, programmes, and projects to carry out the e-Brasil strategy at the federal and state levels. TELECOM is working intensively with the e-Brasil team to mobilize financial resources and to bring together the technical IP solutions providers. These include PLC, Power Line Communications, WiFi, WiMax, mesh networks, IT solutions – whatever is necessary to achieve the e-Brasil objectives as quickly as possible. TELECOM is creating ‘e-States’ projects – e-Rio, e-Sao Paulo, e-Minas, e-Parana, and so on – to move ahead at the state level. State-level action is important if nationwide e-Brasil goals are to be achieved. To launch this effort, TELECOM, with support from the e-Brasil team, organized an e-Rio Seminar in September 2006. We invited all 92 of Rio de Janeiro state’s mayors, state government officials, financial institutions (including the National Economic and Social Development Bank, the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank), technical solution providers, educational experts, and content providers. We gave education the highest priority as a way to reduce Brazil’s deep socioeconomic inequalities and improve its competitiveness. TELECOM is convinced e-Brasil can put Brazil on the road toward realising its full potential. Two towns in Rio de Janeiro state, Piraí and Rio das Flores, are showing the way. Piraí has already achieved national and international recognition as a model digital town. They are excellent examples of how much can be achieved in a short time with dynamic political leadership; partnerships between the public, private, academic and NGO sectors; and financial support from multiple sources. The task, now, is to mobilize political leaders and the media to spread the e-Brasil message and promote nationwide debates on how ICT can contribute to meeting Brazil’s needs in education, health, public health, justice, poverty reduction and competitiveness, and lay the groundwork for rapid progress following the 2006 elections. A team of e-development and e-government specialists based in Brazil – supplemented by consultants and research assistants as funding becomes available is conducting the e-Brasil project. An Advisory Council of Brazilian and international professionals is providing advice. The e-Brasil project is seeking financing for a variety of projects, campaigns and publications for its new Portal e-Brasil. Portal e-Brasil is an Internet portal where the diverse sectors of the Brazilian and international ICT community are coming together to contribute to the realisation of e-Brasil’s objectives, and examine specific bankable projects within the e-Brasil framework. The Development Gateway Foundation, and several Brazilian organizations including the Federation of Workers in Data Processing, Computerization and Similar Activities, FENADADOS, have provided the initial support for Portal e-Brasil. Several ICT sector organizations will soon set up sub-portals within the Portal e-Brasil framework, including TELECOM, the Brazilian Chamber of e-Commerce, the Brazilian Association of State ICT Entities, ABEP, the Brazilian Distance Education Association, ABED, FENADADOS, and the CONIP Institute. For more details about e-Brasil – including how to channel contributions to the tax-exempt account administered by the Euclides da Cunha Foundation of the Fluminense Federal University – see www.e-brasilproject.net.

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