|Issue:||Latin America III 2000|
|Topic:||Internet and The New Millenium in Brazil|
|Author:||Pimenta da Veiga|
|Title:||Minister of Communications|
Brazil is poised to make dramatic breakthroughs throughout its entire society as the new millenium gets underway. Due to the resolve and determination of the Cardoso Administration during the last 6 years to create and implement the REAL PLAN [The Plano Real created the Real, Brazils new currency, cut inflation and stabilised the Brazilian economy. – Ed.], combined with the very rapid entrance of the INTERNET into our society, Brazil aim to make an historic breakthrough in economic growth, in the transparency and efficiency of its democratic institutions, and in providing opportunity for all classes of Brazilian society.
In fact, it is clear that Brazils economy stands to make even more productivity gains than the United Sates itself, as a result of the Internet revolution. The lack of legacy systems and the very inefficient nature of administrative systems in Brazil create enormous opportunities for efficiency gains. For many years the so-called, “Brazil Cost” has been a drag on our economy, and an inhibitor of competitiveness of Brazilian industries in the export markets. The Internet is about to change all of this. For example, the tax system in Brazil has long been a source of difficulties and inefficiencies. Recently, the Brazilian IRS was the first to implement a large-scale tax return system through the Internet. Today millions of Brazilians use the Internet to file their tax returns quickly and efficiently, eliminating delays, paperwork, and excessive costs. Distribution channels in Brazil have been another source of inefficiencies. Unlike the United States, where the availability of transportation suppliers such as, FEDEX, UPS and RYDER, as well as numerous other shippers and logistics suppliers. The Brazilian economy has suffered for decades due to its precarious, slow and inefficient distribution infrastructure, with insufficient information available to suppliers and customers regarding shipment deliveries of all types of goods. Now with the Internet and the burgeoning availability of every type of B2B (Business-to-Business) portal, the productive chains in the Brazilian economy are rapidly tooling up for major efficiency improvements due to the explosion of availability of accurate online information. Companies that used to have to operate with extremely slow supply chains can now improve their speed and efficiency by a factor of ten. For example, a local PC manufacturer was the first company to get approval for a virtual Customs tracking system over the Internet, which brings the power of B2B to the historically slow Brazilian Customs House. The web-centric system allows shipment to be tracked from all over the world, directly onto the companys production lines, without any delays whatsoever in Customs. Lead times for this manufacturer have been reduced from an average of 15 days to 36 hours as a result of this web-based information system, on-line with the Brazilian Customs Office. Embraer is an example of the power of Internet technology in combination with abundantly available natural resources and a trained work force. In a few short years, Embratel has moved into first position worldwide in the production and export of medium sized regional jet aircraft, surpassing even the market leaders from North America. Embraer has a current backlog of over US$5 billion in commercial jet aircraft orders. Their principal key to success has been the effective application of IT platforms to the design and production of these aircraft, taking advantage of the low costs in labour and materials available in Brazil. The same, powerful, level of information availability is beginning to be available at all levels of the Brazilian economy, where up until just a few years ago, only the largest banks and financial institutions had adequate information input. The impact of these productivity gains on the Brazilian economy will surprise even the most optimistic analysts. Brazils massive natural resource base, combined with the human resources being rapidly trained in this new world of information technology and the addition of the Internet based productivity platforms will result in economic growth of 7% per year, for the better part of the next decade. And if these gains in the private sector in Brazil sound surprising, the gains and improvements in the public sector will be even more dramatic and exciting. We are on the verge of resolving a series of the most difficult and vexing problems facing our society: health, education and public administration using the combined technologies of Internet, PC technology, and scalable software platforms such as Microsoft Windows and LINUX. Due to the dramatic reductions in the cost of these technology building blocks, and the existing base of Brazilian technology companies, a wide variety of effective solutions have recently been developed, showing dramatic improvements in these areas. “Where once the school had a massive dropout rate, today the school usually has long lines of students waiting for access to the computer labs, even during week-ends and holidays.” Perhaps the most exciting area is in Public Education. The Brazilian Public Education system has suffered for years from a lack of resources that has left a large part of our population poorly educated. But recently, in the states of Goias, Bahia, and Ceará, pilot projects in public schools, based on Internet and PC technology have shown dramatic results. In the case of the state of Bahia, public schools were wired for the Internet with computerised teaching laboratories, web-based teaching tools, school management software, and a host of other technologies, all connected to a 2 Megabyte, wireless, broadband Internet access and the World Wide Web. Within 6 months of installation, in the middle of one of the poorest regions of Northeastern Brazil, the public school affected improved by a full 30% as a result of this project. Today most of the 2000 students of this school have their own e-Mail addresses, and access gigabytes of information over the Internet every day. Where once the school had a massive dropout rate, today the school usually has long lines of students waiting for access to the computer labs, even during weekends and holidays. There are over 40 million young people in the Brazilian public school system. These people represent the future growth of the Brazilian economy, and the basis for a stable democracy in our country. With these new Internet based technology platforms, designed specifically to jumpstart the quality of our public school education, we expect the quality of education for these 40 million people to improve dramatically, adding millions of new jobs to the economy. By far the greatest challenge that Brazil faces today is the training and education required for our population to be productive in the new globalised, high-technology, world economy. Jobs are plentiful for candidates with an adequate educational background. Therefore, one of the highest priorities of the Brazilian government is to create the infrastructure necessary to educate our students. Projects such as FUST (Fund for the Universalisation of Telecom Services) have been specifically designed in order to bring broadband Internet and PC based teaching laboratories to schools throughout Brazil. The initial results have shown dramatic improvements by our students using these exciting tools. We believe that improvements of 30% to 50% are possible using these technologies in the teaching environments. Speaking of FUST, Brazils President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, will soon announce the guidelines for the allocation of the funds resources – approximately US$ 700 million just for the year 2001. It is expected that FUST will profoundly change the course of Brazilian development by speeding up the pace of this process. Similar initiatives are underway using the Internet and PC technologies in the health care sector and, also, in the very important area of public administration. In the public administration area, some analysts believe that expense reductions and improvements in the quality of government services resulting from Internet based systems can entirely eliminate the Brazilian government budget deficits. Conclusion Similarly, the Brazilian government will further enhance its modernisation by spreading the use of Internet through all the sectors of its official structure. All acts of public interest will be available on the web on what may be seen as the Federal Info-way. The Info-way will gather the information and will manage its distribution for the sake of transparency and democracy.