By webmink on Jul 05, 2009
The Brazilian economy is powered by the Java platform - even their new Free digital TV standard uses it. They took the decision to use Java for so much in part when we (Bruno, myself and a number of others) assured them, a number of years ago, that there would be Free implementations. The story ever since has been snowballing investment in Java skills and an economy capable not only of supporting its own needs but also of exporting skills - they've been making Java a priority for years.
When I was honoured to be invited to meet the President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, at this year's FISL event in Porto Alegre, I naturally accepted. I decided to give him a Java Ring, a wearable Java-powered computer, as a symbolic token of the deep symbiosis between Brazil, the Java platform and Free software.
He took it enthusiastically, put it on straight away - and it fit him. He said that having a computer on his finger made him feel like James Bond and he posed for photographs with it.
The visit by the President of Brazil to (probably) the largest Free software event in the world is a landmark for the Free software movement. In his speech at the event, Lula recognised especially the work of Sergio Amadeu (once Lula's advisor on IT and the man Microsoft tried to sue for being honest about their strategy) and commented on the years of work that had been involved "preparing the meal" on which the country was now able to feast. In response to Marcelo Branco and the many others who had been lobbying him since he arrived at the event, he also too the opportunity to set his face against the terrible internet laws being proposed for Brazil.
The visit was a landmark in at least three ways:
- It represented the first visit I'm aware of to a Free software event of a head of state - in this case the head of the 14th largest economy in the world
- The speech demonstrated the key role Free software leaders like Sergio and Marcello have had in shaping the IT strategy in the country;
- The deprecation of the internet laws demonstrated that the Free software community actually has a powerful lobbying voice.
What was also fascinating was the regard in which Lula - and his ministers - held Richard Stallman. When the Finance minister came along the line-up before Lula arrived he commented on seeing Stallman "I know you!". Lula himself gave a warm and firm welcome to Stallman. Free software has been over 25 years in the making, but in Brazil it took place as a recognised force in affairs of state, in a way I am sure will be repeated globally in coming years.