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Brazil, meet Linux

Earlier this month, IBM sealed a deal with the Brazilian government with the introduction of a Knowledge and Technology Center, of CDTC, at the University of Brasila (UnB) that will promote Linux and other open source standards.

The center is part of a $100 million investment IBM made in the Brazilian government in late 2003 and comes complete with a development laboratory, library, classroom training and operating team of government experts, managers and IBM trainees.

Scott Handy, vice president of IBM's worldwide Linux programs, is at the head of IBM's international effort to promote open source to the developing nations of the world. He spoke with about the Brazilian venture and other open source initiatives across the globe.

How are open standards and open source operating systems like Linux important to a developing country like Brazil?...

One thing they want to do, and a strong part of their focus, is to use these [open standards] to accelerate economic development. So by gaining in something open source, in something freely modifiable and moveable for technology, they can develop business around this, train people in this technology and then get skilled work in this technology. They will have freedom to innovate. [They're] not locked into any one vendor; it's flexible and free of choice. How does Brazil compare to other nations outside North American as a growth market for Linux? Worldwide, the general rule is Linux is growing faster than any other operating system, has been for the past five years and has been projected to outpace anything else to 2008 -- as far as IDC [International Data Corp.] projects. It's always growing faster, specifically in Brazil -- the overall IT market grew at a 5.7 % annual growth rate ... The [Brazilian] Linux market is growing at four times that rate.

When you have technology that grows four times faster than the IT rate overall that is certainly a great place to invest and put emphasis on economic development. The same phenomena are happening in other countries, other tier two countries. Linux is growing faster than any other [operating system], but this hyper growth is happening around world … part of the focus this year is on a set of five emerging countries: China, Brazil, Russia, India and Korea. How will a stronger open source presence in Brazil help other developing nations like China, who also have shown immense Linux/open source adoption?
They are a similar model, with the theme most important being economic development. They don't have a proprietary infrastructure, so they can install something based on open standard to start with and train people in the technology that matters for the future. [Linux] is clearly the one that is growing multiples faster and is a clear winner there. [Developing nations] learn from each other in this model. How does basing the CDTC at an educational institution like the UnB help this initiative? Why is it important to get institutions like these involved in open source efforts like this?
IBM always believed in partnering with the government, universities and some form of local partner.

The CDTC gets formed with multiple elements -- laboratories, a library, classes, a call center and operations -- so all of that comes together.

Usually when governments think about economic development, and you really want to develop skills that will be in the labor pool, this is usually coming from students. [With students involved], the labor pool comes prepackaged with the very technology you have done economic development with. So now where you really get benefit is that you use school as the same place where you develop the technology. The education is a benefit in and of itself and then when they graduate they are already versed in the technology.

The center has a primary function of migrating public and private companies to open source systems. What software and hardware will they have at their disposal to do so
Part of this includes some technology donations, which depends on each of the training programs. IBM Brazil donated some notebook [computers]; another example is that an open source application is being developed in one elementary school that deals with animation that will be used in schools, and that program received some digital cameras. This is part of the whole reinventing education project. In Rio de Janeiro there was a Linux Lab donation -- the entire lab itself and all hardware for it. This allows students to work with Linux and develop and then become a part of the labor school when they graduate. IBM said this year's first task for the center will be to train 700 public service professionals from the Educational Technology Nuclei -- what can we expect next year and beyond?
[Training 700 public service professionals] is the first priority and a year after that we'll train 100 or so pub-service professionals … a huge part of this is that through each educational facility we train a lot of students because they will be doing a majority of the work in the future. Usually, from my experience in other countries, you define a set of projects -- but not too many -- and then based on success of projects you can extend them in the right direction.

One thing that has been interesting about this type of work is that as it comes together through the work of government and universities wanting help and wanting to move forward. A lot of times there is a need to do lot of selling [on IBM's part] and this just doesn't happen in these cases. We are really seeing this as an opportunity for econ development.

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