Brazil free software fray

9 mayo 2005 <br>COUNTRY BRIEFING BRASIL
The Economist Intelligence Unit/ Infoestrategica

Brazilian officials are implementing an open-source, or free, software-adoption policy that is furnishing the government with significant savings. However, the decision is controversial, with troubling long-term implications for multinational companies.

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Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the office of his chief of staff, the Casa Civil, have decreed that the federal government’s 22 ministries and 14 secretariats are henceforth to use open-source software in at least four areas: operational systems for servers and desktops, applications (like word processing), Internet browsers and e-mail.

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Until now, officials had merely encouraged ministries to stop relying on proprietary software programmes, such as Microsoft’s (US) Windows operating system, that require paid-for licensing. So far only seven ministries have started switching to free software, such as Linux. The possible savings, which totalled some US$10m in 2004, could be much greater. According to the attorney-general’s office, the government now pays more than R200m (US$80m) a year in licensing.

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In spite of its cost-reduction potential, the use of open-source software could cost Brazil in other respects. Microsoft has been lobbying in Congress against the government’s new software policy, and disagreement exists within the government itself.

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Brazil’s Development, Industry and Foreign Trade minister, Luiz Fernando Furlan, says he favours free choice in software sourcing. Additionally, he argues that the imposed use of free software runs counter to the government’s own industrial policy, which aims to achieve annual exports of US$2bn in Brazilian-made software by 2007.

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The Brazilian software manufacturers association (Abes) also opposes the new policy, claiming that it might engender a form of protectionism. The scope of the problem becomes evident in recognising that the federal government accounts for more than 20% of domestic software sales at present.

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SOURCE:  EIU / INFO-e

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