The Brazilian government is accelerating initiatives to catch up with the new demands presented by digital transformation and attract private sector investments to these projects, according to senior officials.
At industry event Painel Telebrasil yesterday (15), interim minister at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI), Julio Semeghini, mentioned a number of projects aimed at "making the digital transformation reach the greatest number of Brazilians" and, at the same time, create commercial opportunities for sector players.
"The pandemic has emerged at a time when Brazil was preparing for this new world of digital transformation. We are making great strides in broadband infrastructure, but we also need to expand the population's connectivity and access to digital services ", Semeghini pointed out. Brazil has made inroads when it comes to public services online over the last year, and the country was ranked in the "very high" group of this year's E-Government Development Index.
The interim minister highlighted a series of initiatives adopted by the MCTI, such as the regulatory framework for telecommunications, as well as projects to connect the North and Northeast of Brazil. According to a survey by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br), some 71% of Brazilian households currently have access to the Internet.
However, more than 20 million households are digitally excluded. The issue of lack of connectivity is particularly noticeable in households in the poorest areas of the country: 35% of homes in the Northeast region don't use the web, also a reality for 45% of Brazilian families on minimum wage.
The interim science and technology minister also mentioned the Brazilian Strategy for Digital Transformation as part of the government's current efforts towards modernization, which covers actions across the areas of health, education, agribusiness, tourism and industry, in addition to other initiatives in entrepreneurship, assistive technologies, artificial intelligence and scientific research. The interim minister also noted that the government recognizes the value of startups in its overall digital strategy.
"We need to work on projects that bring investments, modernize the business environment and offer solutions to include more people in the digital economy and develop all regions of the country," he added.
In relation to specific actions relating to the Covid-19 crisis, Semeghini mentioned the creation of the MCTI Connected Network, a crisis committee involving the telecoms sector as well as government representatives, which aims to supervise and monitor the impacts of the pandemic. "The integration was very well executed with the entire telecommunications sector, from small providers to large operators. We learned that we have to work together as we have many challenges and opportunities ahead."
The roll-out of 5G will be a major milestone for the country's digital transformation, the interim minister said. The auction for the fifth-generation spectrum is expected to take place in 2021. At the same event last week, Brazil's vice-president Hamilton Mourão said that Brazil "can't miss out on the 5G opportunity" by not keeping up with other countries that are investing in the technology: "[Failure to seize] this opportunity would mean decades of setbacks and losses", he said.
Semeghini said that several measures were adopted so far to prepare Brazil's infrastructure for the adoption of the new technology, including a national Internet of Things plan. "A great foundation is being built for 5G to come to life," he added.