A government for network inclusion

Jonathan Schwartz visited Brazil recently and offered on his blog this report on a government actively pursuing a politics of digital inclusion.

Jonathan Schwartz visited Brazil recently and offered on his blog this report on a government actively pursuing  a politics of digital inclusion. 

I met with the Congressional President, and with President Lula himself. We talked about free and open source software, the future of the network, and how Sun could help bring more Brazilians on-line, while transferring the skills and technologies that create jobs and export opportunities. And not because Sun's a charity, but because it's good for our business, too - ... But Brazil knows it can't afford a connected society without the competition and opportunities brought about by free and open source software.

The Brazilian government is aggressively focused on digital inclusion, on bringing every segment of society to the 'net. They're making some of the world's largest investments in free software, leveraging it to deploy next generation network platforms spanning traditional telecommunication infrastructure to digital television. The IPTV projects are really interesting - in scale alone (there are more TV's in Brazil than mobile phones, and go take a look at the size of the country if you're interested in network topology problems).

But the rollout of digital TV, and the internet itself, is threatened in Brazil by licensing authorities and patent holders, who are holding Brazil, and every other developing nation, hostage to royalty claims and licensing fees. Claiming that open source software isn't safe (it is, we indemnify our open source customers just like we did when our software was closed source), or that the foundation technologies will obligate Brazil to pay extraordinary royalties for each citizen or citizen access (not true, either).

Those threats are simple - patent holders (who have names very familiar in the IT world) and licensing authorities (sponsored by the same companies) are impeding the rollout of the network to developing nations. We were there to present an alternative, as we're doing across the world. Presenting those alternatives to drive progress, transparency, and ultimately demand for what we build.