Tag Archives: brazil

The Internet Constitution: necessary?

Brazil’s novel and highly praised Marco Civil da Internet, essentially an Internet Constitution, has cleared the house and is becoming law. The new law addresses freedom, privacy, and net neutrality and has been in the works since 2009. The recent issues between the NSA and Brazil spurred Dilma to put the bill before the house, where it passed despite some backlash. Prior to the bill there were no specific rules about how ISPs (internet service providers) were required to hold and retain data. Now, the law requires ISPs to hold user data for six months, which will significantly change the practices of some ISPs who, when unregulated, held user data for numerous years. In addition, the law will ensure freedom of speech on the internet, a factor which has been exceedingly popular among the younger generation. Check out some other specifics about the bill here. 

So what does this have to do with ICT and our class? We’ve been discussing the web a lot recently, and it has increasingly become both a powerful mechanism to be used for development, but also a huge threat to national security, sovereignty, and freedom of speech. Especially after Snowden and the NSA occurrences, many nations are a little on edge, especially booming nations like Brazil. Taking steps which establish rules and regulations for things like privacy protection, freedom of speech, and neutrality is indicative of a nation which is both recognizing its erstwhile faults regarding the web and its usage, and taking the initiative to address those faults before they become the source of a national catastrophe. Establishing regulations for privacy on the Brazilian web will allow users a sense of security that Americans are now starting to question, despite having pre-existing rules (though perhaps not all followed) regarding these issues.

But what about developing countries who are leap-frogging to the internet age without time to develop precautionary and protective regulations or measures? These countries have been placed at a huge risk and will need to catch up fast in order to ensure the safety of their citizens and the privacy and security of their citizen’s information. It looks like this leap-frog will have to be followed by an even bigger leap-frog.

Brazilian Start Up Brings Education to the User

Descomplica is a Brazillian start up that aims to bring education to students through computers and phones in a big way. Last year alone the company had three million students users and half a million students watch the live online lessons. In the latest series of raising funds the company received $5 million, which brings their total funding to $7 million.

The company’s co-founder Marco Fisbhen (@marco_fisbehn) says that the company is lessening the inequity in the education market because it is an alternative to the very high priced private tutoring market. The company is putting its library on SMS platform, which gives access to even more students. With internet penetration in Brazil rising from 9% in 2002 to almost 50% in 2012, some Brazilians are finding great ways to utilize the population’s new internet access.

Descomplica is showing the education is a market that can use new technologies in successful ways, and investor confidence implies that the technologies market in Brazil has a lot of potential.

Social Media in the 2013 Brazilian Protests

This week in class, we have talked about the power of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook in fostering revolutionary activity, especially during the Arab Spring. According to the study done by Howard et. al., social media helped shape political debates in the Arab Spring and discussions on sites such as Facebook often immediately preceded major protests on the ground. Use of social media also helped garner international support for the movements in the Middle East. An interesting case to compare to the Arab Spring is the recent protests in Brazil that have actively used social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. The protests started when the government raised bus fares in some of Brazil’s major cities, but soon spread to critiquing other issues, especially the government’s excessive spending building massive stadiums for the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games in Brazil. The protesters are mostly middle-class, educated, and under the age of 30. It is interesting to compare these protests to the Arab Spring because they have used social media in similar ways. Like the Arab Spring movement, young Brazilian protesters have used social media sites to coordinate events and spread their message internationally. However, unlike the Arab Spring, the Brazilian protests are not directed against any one leader in particular and their demands are not as concrete. In an NBC News article, Caroline Stauffer reports that social media has not only helped coordinate the actions of the Brazilian protesters, but it has only splintered the movement in some ways. She cites the fact that the movement has no clear leadership. Social media allows these young protesters to coordinate anonymously and without a defined group of people at the head of the movement. This has caused some confusion within the movement, and some of the protests have turned violent, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to stop demonstrators. I think that this case is especially interesting because it shows that social media can be a democratic way to organize protests and spread a message, but that it also has the potential to fragment a movement due to a lack of a clear leadership base or concrete demands. Social media is a very new tool in organizing revolutions, and it is important to take into account all of its possible advantages and disadvantages.



Brazil at the Forefront of Cyber Security Issues

Technological advances have given rise to an entirely new, yet equally as threatening form of combat- cyber warfare. Both developed and developing countries worldwide are now faced with the issue of cyber security. While a number of multi-national agreements and initiatives are in motion to help resolve cyber attacks, world governments need to begin to look internally in order to find the source of these crimes. One such government that should be shifting to this focus is that of Brazil, since this Latin American nation is currently at the forefront of cyber security issues.

While ICTs have helped Brazil climb the economic ranks over the past decade, surpassing the U.K. as the sixth best economy in the world, the country has paid little to no attention to ensuring the proper laws and regulations are in place in order to facilitate further ICT development. For example, there is a serious lack of privacy protection for any data being sent over the nation’s networks due to there being no privacy legislation in place.  In addition to having no privacy legislation, Brazil also has not implemented any legislation addressing cybercrime. Any cyber laws that Brazil does have are either outdated or in conflict with international standards. According to an article on foreignpolicydigest.org, in Brazil,  “Six in ten computers in the country are attacked with viruses and malware.” (http://goo.gl/5w8Pz) Furthermore, the article describes an analysis that found that resolving the average cyber attack on an individual in Brazil not only costs an average of $1,408 U.S. dollars, but also takes 44 days to fix.

This is unsurprising, seeing as how Brazil also has gaps in intellectual property protection. Not only has Brazil not updated its copyright laws to protect newer technologies, but it also has not signed the WIpo copyright treaty. Due to these types of serious gaps in their cyber security infrastructure, Brazil experiences widespread online piracy as well.  The Foreign Policy Digest article also makes reference to the fact that Brazil will be hosting the 2 largest international sporting events in thw world in the coming years- The World Cup and The Olympics. With a huge influx of high-profile individuals coming into the nation, and likely transferring important information over their network, Brazil would be wise to begin beefing up their cyber security efforts.

UNICEF’s Knight News Challenge – Voices of Youth Maps

These past couple of weeks we have been introduced to some interesting and (at least for me) new things. The open street map assignment made me aware of something I never knew existed until now. I think it’s a really interesting component of what role ICTs can have in impacting development, especially when taken into context with disaster response. Along these lines, I found this really cool project that is part of a challenge put on by the Knight Foundation, the “Knight News Challenge” with the subject “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?” Here is a brief video giving some context to the project:

UNICEF, as part of this challenge, is working on a project geared towards empowering youth in cities to map their neighborhoods in order to facilitate the communication between government and citizens, as well as improve response measures taken in disaster prone urban areas. The project focuses for now on the cities of Port-au-Prince and Rio de Janeiro.

Their project in one sentence: “Digital maps created by young advocates establish a collaborative space for municipal government and community to work together towards safer neighborhoods.” 

In February 2013 they trained ~300 youth mappers to cover 11 favelas in Rio and 2 neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. These ‘youth reports’ have already led to bridges getting fixed, flood walls being reinforced, and playgrounds cleared of stagnant water according to their description.

youth mappers in action - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

youth mappers in action – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Their approach uses a workshop which employs the UNICEF- Geographic Information System (UNICEF-GIS) which is a smartphone app. It allows the users to collect and “share location sensitive reports in a simple, private and secure manner.” The app creates a map of all reports filtered depending on the hazards, etc. Voices of Youth (the UNICEF moderated youth-friendly public platform) allows the mappers to turn their reports into “powerful advocacy materials, which they can promote collectively through other social and local media channels.”

Why Youth Mappers? “because young people bring a truthful first-hand and real perspective to the program, making our maps extremely compelling. If [the government] ignores maps by youth, then they are denying the needs of their most vulnerable and innocent citizens who are the voices of the future, as well as potential community leaders.”

Between March 1st and July 1st?

1) Prototyping an “Urgency Rank System”. The number of reports are increasingly growing, and in response we are devising a system to label and rank                          reports based on severity and urgency.

2) An administrative system that will allow users to create profiles and trainers to customize the layers on their maps.

3) A widget that will allow for a new interlinked Voices of Youth Maps to be embedded easily into any website for sharing youth posted multi-media reports.

4) Various upgrades to capacity and usability for UNICEF-GIS app and website.

5) A “Voices of Youth Maps and Civic Media How-To Guidebook” for streamlining trainings and project implementation as we scale to new cities.

Brazil National ICT Resources

Notes: Studying Brazil as your focus country may not be as difficult as studying others, but it certainly takes some digging to find the resources you will need to analyze it. Having a basic background in Portuguese will be very helpful because most of the websites for the government branches that deal with ICT are in Portuguese. Furthermore, Brazil does not have a digitally published version of their National ICT Policy; therefore, most of your sources will be non-governmental overviews of the current ICT situation in the country.

While Brazil’s actual national ICT policy cannot be found on the web, a very thorough analysis of their latest policy, namely the Productive Development Policy (PDP), which was launched in 2008, can be found here:

Another key source in analyzing Brazil’s ICT sector is this GISWatch Country Report:

This publication gives another good general overview of the ICT landscape in Brazil, as well as the other BRIC countries, China and India.

The International Telecommunications Union briefly discusses Brazil’s national policy development and e-government.

The ITU also published another report that has myriad data on Brazil and its ICT sector, complete with tables full of indicators and rankings. This one is far more helpful.

This report provides the Network Readiness Index score for Brazil (and other countries), as well as an in-depth breakdown of that score. It is great for comparing and contrasting Brazil to other countries.

The following EIU report was really only useful for the numerical score breakdown of the Digital Economy Score. It was good for comparing and contrasting Brazil to its neighbors.

Gender and ICTs in Brazil

As we have now learned, the digital divide in inclusive of several kinds of gaps. This week we are focusing on the gender divide, with men typically enjoying more access to ICTs than women. In Brazil, this gap persists, yet certain studies, namely one published by Martin Hilbert of the University of Southern California (USC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (http://tinyurl.com/atpzwpg), posits that according to data, women in Brazil are more enthusiastic ICT users. Furthermore, the International Telecommunications Union has identified a major shortage of skilled professionals in the ICT sector in Brazil, with an expected shortage of 200,000 professionals in 2013 (http://tinyurl.com/ayc9a3e).

When I read both of these publications side by side, a lightbulb went off in my head, and I thought, “The opportunities are there, so why aren’t more women taking on these jobs and studying the skills they need to tap this untapped resource?” After doing some further research, I found that, like with many developing countries, both sociocultural and economic factors are keeping women out the technology workforce in Brazil. Other readings have put forth the notion that policy adjustment has the ability to remedy this divide, but in Brazil, such policy changes have not had a substantial effect. According to the World Bank,

“the Brazilian government has approved a policy framework that guarantees gender equality in the workplace. For example, the constitution of Brazil ‘prohibits differentiation in salary levels on the basis of sex, establishes incentives for encouraging the participation of women in the workforce, and provides paid maternity leave of 120 days and paternity leave for five days.'” (http://tinyurl.com/cl6lut4)

However, their research yields that these policies are not enforced, and are therefore perpetuating a poor employment climate for the ICT field. So, if according the Hilbert’s study in Brazil,

“only 22.8% of all working men use the Internet, while 28.5% of all working women are online. Only 47.0% of all Brazilian working men use a mobile phone, while 50.6% of all working women telecommunicate on the go…”

then shouldn’t the Latin American country begin to be more proactive about encouraging their female citizens to use the ICT skills they so clearly have in order to gain economic success?  One would think so! But proof of this type of positive gender-equality movement is not there.