An outpost for free software (Brazil)
Since taking office two years ago, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has turned Brazil into an outpost of the free-software movement.
On da Silva's watch, Brazil has also become the first country to require any company or research institute that receives government financing to develop software to license it as open-source, meaning the actual computer instructions underlying the software must be made available to all.
Now Brazil's government looks poised to take its free-software campaign to the masses. And once again Microsoft may end up on the sidelines.
By the end of April, the government plans to roll out Connected PC, a ballyhooed program aimed at helping millions of low-income Brazilians buy their first computers. If the president's top technology adviser gets his way, the program may end up offering computers only with free software, including the operating system, handpicked by the government instead of giving consumers the option of paying for, say, a basic edition of Microsoft Windows.
Buyers will be able to pay in 24 installments of 50 to 60 reals, an amount affordable for many working poor. Participants will be able to get a dial-up Internet connection for 7.50 reals a month, allowing 15 hours of Web surfing from the country's top three fixed-line telephone companies: Telefónica of Spain; Tele Norte Leste Participações, or Telemar; and Brasil Telecom.
The program aims at households and small-business owners earning three to seven times the minimum monthly wage, or about 775 to 1,800 reals. The government says seven million qualify and it hopes to reach one million of them by year's end.
Read more at the International Herald Tribune.