Brazil is pioneering a model of Internet governance that encourages the effective participation of society in decisions about implementation, administration and use of the network.
Based on multilateral, transparent and democratic principles, the country’s Internet services are coordinated, and activities integrated, through the Comitê Gestor da Internet no Brasil (CGI.br), or the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee. Originally created in 1995, this is a multistakeholder organization composed of representatives of government ministries and agencies, businesses, civil society and the scientific community. There are 21 members in all, 12 from the private sector and 9 from government.
CGI.br is responsible for promoting innovation and high technical quality in Internet services, and their dissemination across Brazil. Since July 2004, the representatives of civil society have been elected democratically to participate directly in the committee’s deliberations and to debate the priorities for the Internet.
The Committee has three working groups to provide technical, administrative and operational input for the decisions and recommendations of CGI.br. The groups cover network engineering, computer security, and training of human resources. The Committee also has many other responsibilities. These include proposing policies and procedures related to the regulation of Internet activities, and recommending standards for technical and operational procedures. CGI.br also establishes strategic directives on the use and development of the Internet in Brazil.
To help carry out its diverse activities, CGI.br created, in 2005, a not-for-profit civil organization named the Núcleo de Informação e Coordenação do Ponto BR (NIC.br) or the Brazilian Network Information Centre. It has units that work on several specific areas:
Since 1995, this arm of the Committee has been responsible for registering domain names that use “.br” and the administration of that top-level domain. As of 31 March 2009, there were more than 1.6 million domain names registered under “.br”. NIC.br also offers the services of engineering and hosting for the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Register (LACNIC).
Internet security is one of the major concerns of CGI.br, which, since 1997, has maintained the Brazilian Computer Emergency Response Team, or CERT.br. Besides dealing with incidents, CERT.br offers support to network administrators and Internet users in Brazil, publishes documents in Portuguese about network security, and produces statistics on security incidents and spam. It also maintains an early warning project with the goal of identifying new trends and alerting Brazilian networks about malicious activities. CERT.br works to increase awareness of security issues and helps to establish new Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs) in Brazil.
The Centro de Estudos e Pesquisas em Tecnologia de Redes e Operações (CEPTRO.br), or Centre of Study and Research for Network and Operational Technologies, looks at innovation and how the Internet’s technical quality can be improved. It also researches network technologies designed to spread Internet access in Brazil. Among its projects are a structure of traffic exchange points that offers connections in metropolitan areas, and a network time protocol by which a group of computers or a network can set their time references.
The Centro de Estudos sobre as Tecnologias da Informação e da Comunicação (CETIC.br) is responsible for producing indicators and statistics about the availability and usage of the Internet in Brazil. These data are critical for monitoring the social and economic impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) and comparing Brazil with other countries.
The challenge of connecting everyone
Brazil, with a population of 194.2 million, has 60 million Internet users. But this represents only 30 per cent of the population. The good news is that efforts are under way to connect people everywhere in this vast country. For example, in the Amazon, a wireless, high-speed Internet network has been established in the town of Parintins through a public-private partnership to improve the health care and education of its residents. Working with the Brazilian government and business and education officials, Intel and its collaborators installed a state-of-the-art WiMAX network for a primary healthcare centre, two public schools, a community centre and Amazon University.
The computer market is growing, following government incentives
Access to computers and the Internet is now a key focus of public ICT policy. This includes offering subsidies for buying desktop and laptop computers. At the very beginning of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government in 2003, most makers of personal computers in Brazil did not consider it possible to reduce the price of a machine to around USD 650. But today, one can buy a computer for less than USD 450.
The government has introduced the “Computers for All” programme that aims to offer every Brazilian the possibility of buying a high-end computer with access to the Internet. Through this programme, credit lines are given to low-income families to buy computers that cost about USD 450 — and government taxes are reduced for computers that are priced at around USD 1750. These initiatives contributed greatly to the sale of more than 10 million computers in Brazil in 2007. And a market study shows that 12 million more were sold in 2008.
In April 2008, the Ministry of Education began a programme to provide broadband Internet connectivity to all 56 000 federal schools by 2010. In addition, the “Portal for the Teacher” initiative was launched in June 2008 to provide multimedia material (with digital content) to all schools and students in the country and to train all teachers through a special capacity building programme.
* CEO of the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br)