The Brazilian Effect

I was honored to meet the President of Brazil last week.

I’m not one to name drop, but this is one of those extraordinary interactions I had to put in a first sentence – I’ll return to why I met with him in a moment, but I was having a hard time with a graceful segue later in this post. So with that done…

I’ve given keynotes at Java One for many years, and one of the things I’ve grown to expect is what I’ll call the “Brazilian effect.”

Having just returned from a trip to Sao Paulo and Brasilia, I can confirm Brazil’s one of the more progressive nations in the world when it comes to the use of free and open source software. It’s got one of the largest, and most vibrant developer communities (great to see the OpenSolaris community putting down roots!),

and as a result, there’s never a shortage of interesting projects for me or James to reference during our talks.

But whenever you mention Brazil or a Brazilian project, you have to watch out for the Brazilian effect, the total disruption of your speech by a contingent of flag waving (and wearing) Brazilians that, upon hearing their nation mentioned, break into hoots and hollers and whistles and applause. It takes a few minutes to die down, and the enthusiasm’s contagious. And it drives a bit of competitiveness from folks all around the world who want to know why the Brazilians get to have all the fun. (Let’s see more flags this year!)

Brazil’s very focused on making Brazil a better place – and an open network is playing a big role. There are nearly as many mobile handsets in the market as there are credit card holders (the former are well on their way to being default micro-payment, as well as application platforms), and the number of Brazilians with broadband access is skyrocketing. There’s a move to drive all of Brazil on-line, as a means of connecting Brazil to Brazil, and to the global market – and free and open source software is playing an instrumental role.

So I’d now like to say, “I understand the Brazilian effect.” There is a distinct sense that Brazilians want a better Brazil, that there’s a pride in its progress and evolution. There’s a palpable energy, even and maybe especially within the halls of its government institutions (where it’s sometimes harder to find energy in other nations). I had an opportunity to travel to the seat of power in Brazil, to Brasilia, a city with an interesting history.

And once there, I met with the Congressional President, and with President Lula himself. We talked about free and open source software, the future of the network, and how Sun could help bring more Brazilians on-line, while transferring the skills and technologies that create jobs and export opportunities. And not because Sun’s a charity, but because it’s good for our business, too – more Brazilians on-line drives more business for Sun, as a connected citizenry participates, with media companies, government agencies, financial institutions and one another. But Brazil knows it can’t afford a connected society without the competition and opportunities brought about by free and open source software.

The Brazilian government is aggressively focused on digital inclusion, on bringing every segment of society to the ‘net. They’re making some of the world’s largest investments in free software, leveraging it to deploy next generation network platforms spanning traditional telecommunication infrastructure to digital television. (One of the lead government IT folks was walking me through the lobby of their Congress, showing me their voting systems, and proudly said, “we’re only running open source software now. We run Solaris.”) The IPTV projects are really interesting – in scale alone (there are more TV’s in Brazil than mobile phones, and go take a look at the size of the country if you’re interested in network topology problems).

But the rollout of digital TV, and the internet itself, is threatened in Brazil by licensing authorities and patent holders, who are holding Brazil, and every other developing nation, hostage to royalty claims and licensing fees. Claiming that open source software isn’t safe (it is, we indemnify our open source customers just like we did when our software was closed source), or that the foundation technologies will obligate Brazil to pay extraordinary royalties for each citizen or citizen access (not true, either).

Those threats are simple – patent holders (who have names very familiar in the IT world) and licensing authorities (sponsored by the same companies) are impeding the rollout of the network to developing nations. We were there to present an alternative, as we’re doing across the world. Presenting those alternatives to drive progress, transparency, and ultimately demand for what we build.

Because bridging the digital divide is what gets us out of our seats, hooting and hollering. The network effect, after all, is Sun’s Brazilian effect. And stay tuned on our progress – we’re hoping to have some interesting things to announce shortly.

And once again, during a town hall in Sao Paulo, I was asked, “what are you going to write in your blog about your visit to Brazil?” My response, “I’m going to write about how great our team is.” A great team, doing important work, not just important for our customers, but witness the meeting with President Lula, important for Brazil.

Congrats, Cleber and team – keep it up!

(with apologies for the folks who got cut off on the edges – next time, I’ll be sure we’ve got a far wider lens…)


Filed under General

5 responses to “The Brazilian Effect

  1. Eduardo Scoz

    Hi Jonathan
    I usually don’t write comments on blogs, but I had to write now.
    As a brazillian software engineer (java, .net… ) living in the US, it’s great to see people like you talking about Brazil like that. Brazil is a very large country, with many problems, but with amazing people, capable of always finding the best solutions for every problem put on front of them.
    It’s refreshing to see a person in the position where you are, talking about the inherent problems related to licensing and patents, and how to overcome those on develping countries, where this can be a major show stopper.
    The Brazilian government has been trying to push the digital inclusion in brazil for quite some time. Publications like the Green Book (, which is a very good reading, and you probably already had contact with, talked about this back in 2000, and really opened the doors to open source development in Brazil.
    The voting machines you talked about, btw, are a big pride in Brazil. Cheap, yet extremely useful and reliable machines, that transformed the voting process in brazil.
    and yes.. we always get ALL THE FUN! đŸ™‚

  2. Christian Probst

    It´s very conforting as a Brazilian guy to see such warm words about our country. Indeed, all cited characteristics are easily seen in ourselves, although there are some problems (that have not been mentioned).
    And, yes, we are very proud of our voting machine… And enjoy life…

  3. While we’re on the subject of Brazil, The Aquarium weblog is still looking for a Sun Employee to help out with a Portuguese language mirror; more details here :

  4. Hi Jonathan. I am the bald journalist who did the dumb question (“Did your open letter have feedback from the Brazilian government?”). It’s nice to know you enjoyed your stay here in Brazil. The next issue of our magazine will bring a profile of yours.
    Nice to meet you.

  5. Jonathan,
    Glad you had a good time. I went to FISL last year and was blown off my feet by the enthusiasm of the Brazillians; I hope that I can go back in 2007.

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