The New York Times writes:
Since taking office two years ago, President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva has turned Brazil into a tropical outpost of the free software movement.
Looking to save millions of dollars in royalties and licensing fees, Mr. da Silva has instructed government ministries and state-run companies to gradually switch from costly operating systems made by Microsoft and others to free operating systems, like Linux. On Mr. da Silva’s watch, Brazil has also become the first country to require any company or research institute that receives government financing to develop software to license it as open-source, meaning the underlying software code must be free to all.
Now Brazil’s government looks poised to take its free software campaign to the masses. And once again Microsoft may end up on the sidelines.
By the end of April, the government plans to roll out a much ballyhooed program called PC Conectado, or Connected PC, aimed at helping millions of low-income Brazilians buy their first computers.
Under the program, which is expected to offer tax incentives for computer makers to cut prices and a generous payment plan for consumers, the government hopes to offer desktops for around 1,400 reais ($509) or less. The machines will be comparable to those costing almost twice that outside the program.
Buyers will be able to pay in 24 installments of 50 to 60 reais, or about $18 to $21.80 a month, an amount affordable for many working poor. The country’s top three fixed-line telephone companies – Telefnica of Spain; Tele Norte Leste Participaes, or Telemar; and Brasil Telecom – have agreed to provide a dial-up Internet connection to participants for 7.50 reais, or less than $3, a month, allowing 15 hours of Web surfing.