With The Economist in Brazil this week focused on where Brazil is heading in the next decade, IT Decisions is commenting on a series of points raised during discussions in our LinkedIn forum. This is the state of Brazil IT today in relation to the key technology implications of the World Cup of 2014 and the Olympic Games of 2016.
Imagine what would happen if, at the moment Brazilian sprinter Nilson André crosses the finish line in his 100m final in the Rio Olympic Games, the IT systems had a glitch and the result wasn’t broadcast.
How’s that for pressure on the IT department managing what goes on behind the scenes? For the technology systems supporting the most watched sporting events in the world – the Olympics and the World Cup - failure of any kind is not an option.
The investment in technology needed to enable the World Cup and the Olympic Games in Brazil will reach R$ 5.7bn ($ 3.4bn), according to IT industry association Brasscom. But there are still concerns around whether the country will be able to deliver what is needed: looking back at similar sporting events that have taken place in Rio, overall spend for the Pan-American Games in 2007 was eight times more that initially expected.
Building, integrating and managing the technology supporting such events is one of the most complex and high-profile assignments in IT worldwide. Additionally, if billions will be watching next year’s Olympic Games in London and interacting and sharing content over a myriad of different channels including TV, social media web tools and mobile phones, then the World Cup 2014 and Rio 2016 teams will need to brace themselves for a scenario that will be a lot more intricate.
The events also present a huge opportunity for Brazil – some commentators have said that this is even bigger than the economic miracle of the 1970s. From an IT perspective, the sporting competitions present not only the prospect of a valuable and lasting legacy for the country in concrete terms, but also from a skills standpoint.
According to IDC Brazil president Mauro Peres, having sound telecommunications networks is essential to start off.
“Having a telecoms infrastructure that will last would enable a massive jump in Brazil’s development. It is all very well using cloud to host the systems and so on, but if we only have a rented infrastructure that will not last, it will be a wasted opportunity,” said Peres, referring to the fact that a considerable amount of the telecoms set-up in Brazil will be available only for the duration of the sporting events.
In terms of the resilience of the set-up, senior figures at the Federal Service of Data Processing (Serpro, in the Portuguese acronym) have been quoted recently as saying that, despite the fact that infrastructure investment is needed, the possiblity of an IT collapse during the events is “unlikely” and that the sporting competitions will serve as a “test bed” for future government services to the population.
Serpro also accepts that this jump in quality and quantity of public services to citizens also depends on the state and permanent availability of telecommunications networks across the country.
An example of such initiatives is the $80m ($46m) plan led by the administration of the Distrito Federal (DF) state, where Brasilia is located, to provide wi-fi access across the whole city ahead of the World Cup.
Since Brasilia will be one of the host cities in the 2014 event, the intention is that the project, a first in Brazil, will be fully operational in two years’ time. Three locations with wi-fi access have already been made available: the city’s stadium and main park, as well as the central bus station.
In terms of the infrastructure required to make the project possible, the government is looking to take advantage of the fiber optic network owned by the central government in the city and also use resources owned by Brasilia-based organizations, such as the city’s university, Universidade de Brasilia, the local utilities firm, Companhia Energética de Brasilia, as well as the metro system.
The National Broadband Plan
Another important piece in the IT infrastructure jigsaw to be put together ahead of the upcoming sporting events is the Brazilian National Broadband Plan (PNBL).
A new proposal for PNBL was launched in May 2010 with the aim of providing mass internet coverage at low prices until 2014, taking 11,9 million households online and promoting the growth of the telecommunications infrastructure of the country. The plan will cost about R$13bn ($7.4bn).
According to Telecomunicações Brasileiras (Telebrás) – the public sector body accountable for the execution of the broadband initiative – about 100 Brazilian cities will benefit from the PNBL. The list does not include cities from the Southern region of the country. It predominantly covers the Northeast region, with more than 50 cities listed; the Southeast, where São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are located, has had 30 cities included in the plan.
The states with more cities listed are Bahia, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, with eight each. Cities from the Midwest and North which will benefit from the plan are located are Goiás and Tocantins, respectively.
Under the plan, the government is looking to enforce minimum speeds of 1 Mbps with prices starting at R$35 ($20). Plans under that specification, which would enable a user to download a 1.2GB file in 2 hours and 40 minutes, are currently offered at about R$45 ($25.8) on average by internet service providers in the state of São Paulo.
The number of broadband users in Brazil has reached 50 million in September, according to the Brazilian Association of Telecommunications (Telebrasil). Out of that total, 34.5 million are 3G subscribers and 16.2 million are paying for fixed internet access. This represents 2.9 million new users during the month, 60% above the monthly average of 2011, which is 1.8 million.
Brazilian telcos are reacting to the increased consumer demand. Companies have invested R$17.4bn ($10bn) last year in expanding infrastructure, while this year the total investment exceeded R$ 9bn ($5.1bn) in the first half of 2011 alone.
And corporate owners of large fiber optic portfolios are also joining forces with Telebrás to deliver the PNBL: earlier this year, Brazilian oil giant Petrobrás signed an agreement whereby its network will be used to meet part of the requirements set out by the national broadband plan.
Sport vs. skills
According to the Brazilian secretary of informatics policy at the Ministry of Science and technology, Virgilio Almeida, the government intends to use the appeal of sports to bridge the digital gap, as well as showing how sports can be helped by science and technology and attract young people to careers in these fields.
“We have the World Cup and the Olympics ahead of us and we are looking to use these events to attract young people to IT careers. We are working with private sector companies and trade bodies to create a plan that will include an ‘IT Olympics’, where advanced technology will be used to challenge students and present IT careers as a desirable option,” secretary Almeida told IT Decisions.
While the projects mentioned by the government have yet to be announced, Brazil only has three years to go until the next major event takes place. The 15 year-olds that will be entering the workforce in 2014 need guidance and so far, little has been done in that respect – and time is running out.
Look out for the full State of Brazil IT report, to be published on this website later this week.
Image by Rodrigo_Soldon licensed under Creative Commons.