It’s great to see US entrepreneurs coming down to Brazil and writing about the hi-tech economy in well-read media such as The Huffington Post – a title I write for myself – but it’s not always so great when some of the facts are misrepresented or mistaken.
So when I read Steve Rosenbaum’s report from the Digital Age 2.0 conference in São Paulo last week I sighed a few times. The hosts, Now! Digital, put this event together and though there are some excellent digital media commentators right here in São Paulo from Brazil, Europe, and the US, I can’t see that any of them got invited.
Anyone reading our website knows that we don’t think the tech sector in Brazil is perfect, there is still a long way to go, but the reality is that the US is not perfect, neither is the UK. If we judge all our failings against a perfect situation then the present state is bound to be wanting.
What upset me the most about the feature in question? Perhaps just that it is impossible to capture the development of hi-tech Brazil by flying down from the US for a 2-day visit. I’ve been living in Brazil since the start of the year and I am endlessly meeting other foreigners in business here who have been in hi-tech Brazil for decades. I still feel like the new kid on the block even though São Paulo is now my home.
If I were going to list a few comments on the feature then I might start by saying:
- Greater São Paulo has about 19.6m residents, not 16m. On this scale that might seem trivial, but it’s like ignoring the City of Dublin six times over.
- Wi-fi is no better or worse than I experience in most major European or US cities. All of my local bars and cafes offer free wi-fi to customers, which is more than I can say for my own experience in London.
- 3G is still rolling out. Then how come my HTC Desire works any place that I have gone to in the city, helping me check the web, upload photos, and view bus routes wherever I am?
- Smartphone penetration is lower than older handsets, but sales are more than doubling this year.
- Talk of the “C-class” is more easily understood by illustrating that in a country of almost 200m people, over 100m are considered to be in class C… the basic consumer class. So Brazil’s societal classes appear more diamond-shaped than stacked up like a pyramid.
- This also means that the 80m Internet users probably has to be taken with a pinch of salt. I don’t mean to dispute wherever the figure is from, but given that most members of social classes A, B, and C might be expected to be using the Internet it appears low. Stats are usually a year old and this market is moving so fast…
- A real red herring is repeating the line that Brazilians all use Orkut. Yes, they used to up to 2010, but I live here and I have never been asked by anyone for my Orkut ID. It’s Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all the way now – with the latter experiencing over 400% growth in Brazil in the past year alone.
I don’t want this to sound like a rant or an endless list of corrections to Steve’s article – I like much of what Steve has written in the past - and not all his comments were wrong. But clearly the conference organisers at DA2.0 were feeding some duff info to the visitors and when Brazil has a really great story to tell in innovation, entreprenuerial start-ups, and corporate IT, that’s more than just a shame.
Photo by Luiz Henrique Assunção licensed under Creative Commons