Brazilian government changes tech minister - again

Fourth minister in four years takes over in January; Aldo Rebelo's previous anti-innovation past sparks concerns within the local tech community
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

As Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff gears up to start her new mandate next month, Aldo Rebelo has been appointed as the new science and technology minister.

The appointment of Rebelo, most recently the sports minister with a career in politics dating back from the 1970s, marks a return of actual politicians to the science and technology cabinet, which had been recently led by academics.

Rebelo will be the fourth minister to occupy the science, technology and innovation chair in four years. His appointment comes less than a year after current minister Clelio Campolina Diniz took over with a remit of defining priorities for Brazil's science, innovation and technology agenda and delivering results fast.

However, getting Rebelo to lead the cabinet has been a reason for concern within the local tech community. That is due to Rebelo's lack of experience in the science and technology field as well as his previous anti-innovation agenda.

A pro-agribusiness lobbyist that has denied that global warming exists, the new science and technology minister is known for defending projects against the introduction of technology innovations that can potentially reduce the need for manpower.

Projects supported by the politician in recent years include a draft bill that would prevent petrol stations from using self service pumps, as well as electronic ticketing gates in buses.

Rebelo is also known for his nationalist stance and has supported projects such as the reduction of foreign words - such as "mouse", the computing device, or "tablet" - in the Portuguese language.

Priorities for the Brazilian government's science and technology department, which had a budget of R$9.5m ($3.5m) in 2014, have so far included the development of cybersecurity policies, investing in local and international tech start-ups and developing partnerships with multinational companies to set up global research and development centers in Brazil in return for incentives.

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