Brazil's new science and technology minister takes over

Astronaut Marcos Pontes will focus on cybersecurity and artificial intelligence and review areas such as Internet of Things and broadband coverage.

Brazil's new minister of science, technology, innovation and communications has taken over yesterday (2), citing intentions of focusing on cybersecurity and artificial intelligence and pledging to review key areas such as Internet of Things and broadband coverage.

During a press conference yesterday, astronaut Marcos Pontes cited intentions of working closer with other government departments in technologies that are considered strategic, in areas such as space and nuclear energy, as well as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

According to Pontes, one of the ministry's priorities is to extend countrywide broadband coverage, especially in remote areas of Brazil. While highlighting that digital inclusion remains a priority, the minister said he is in talks with ISPs to ensure universal coverage.

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The minister said IoT policies, the theme of a decree ignored by former president Michel Temer, are included in a roster of decisions from the previous administration to be analyzed by the new team.

Internet of Things is a topic the ministry had been working on for the last couple of years. Previous minister Gilberto Kassab was pushing for the release of a decree that would implement public policies for IoT in Brazil before the end of Temer's mandate on December 31.

The decree, however, was not signed and the best the tech ministry could get was the publication of a stopgap measure around the creation of a national data protection agency and IoT was only mentioned in passing by the new incumbent.

Pontes, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel and the only Brazilian to have completed the NASA astronaut training program, was announced as the country's new science and technology minister shortly after the results of the presidential elections in October.

At the time of the announcement, Pontes said he plans on using "technology to transform these ideas into innovations, which will turn into new products and generate new jobs."

However, a major challenge will be to boost the budget of the ministry, which has suffered severe cuts over the last few years. Pontes wants to invest about 3 percent of the country's GDP in science and technology - currently investment is equivalent to about one percent.