Long feted as one of the ‘countries of the future’, Brazil is currently in a period of transition – but one that is ripe with opportunities. The seventh-biggest economy in the world and seventh top destination for direct foreign investment, Brazil has been on a mission to upgrade its infrastructure and boost its export business. The country’s commodities exports grew from $11 billion in 2005 to $64 billion in 2012, and its agribusiness is strong, representing 23 percent of the country’s GDP, but Brazil is aware that more needs to be done to fulfil its potential.
Crucial to enhancing its economy is its transportation infrastructure – there is little rail network to speak of and just 14 percent of the country’s roads are paved – and two major sporting events have put Brazil in the international spotlight more than ever.
leveraging global games
Hosting a major, globally televised event can have a profound effect on a country’s culture, economy and infrastructure – it shines a light on state of the country and can help stimulate its economy – and events don’t come any bigger than the World Cup and the Olympics.
The 2014 soccer World Cup was a success, drawing in a worldwide television audience in the billions and prompting big investment in Brazil’s infrastructure. In 2012 Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff committed around $69 billion to be invested in the country’s roads and rail network as well as its airports – in 2011, 179 million people used Brazil’s 67 airports, up 108 million on 2003’s figure.
“The World Cup went some way towards helping Brazil’s economic situation but there is obviously still more to be done,” said Renato Leite, Director of Marketing & Communications, Americas at Orange Business Services. “Technological investment focused primarily on Rio because it was home to the World Cup media center, and that will likely be the case in 2016 too – but as IT infrastructure is rolled out further around the country it could have a major positive impact on the economy and on people’s working and personal lives.”
The infrastructure budget for the 2016 Olympics in Rio is $14.2 billion and it is to be hoped that the good work done around the 2014 World Cup will continue in the lead up to the Olympics in two years’ time.
investing in technology
Naturally the World Cup and Olympic Games meant a need to invest in technology infrastructure too. The country’s service providers were quick to begin deploying 4G mobile broadband and Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) networks, taking advantage of new government tax breaks for money invested in both fixed and mobile broadband networks.
Around $180 million was invested in 4G infrastructure throughout Brazil, focusing initially on the 12 World Cup host cities. 4G uptake has been a big success, with subscriptions up by 50 percent in the first half of 2014. In a country with around 290 million mobile subscribers, the 5th largest in the world, this bodes well for the future of the communications sector. Telecommunications revenues are expected to hit around $95 billion by the end of 2014.
The Brazilian government is also pushing technology development. It has invested in new technology-focused agencies including four Centers for Strategic Technologies focusing on the Northeast, Atlantic Rainforest and the Wetlands, while the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) has announced the development of new cybersecurity policies to provide a more secure infrastructure for public and private sector networks.
Google has committed to Brazil too, backing the construction of a new 64 Tbps capacity undersea fiber optic cable connecting Brazil and the United States and designed to boost Brazil’s overall connectivity speeds. Google Latin American head Cristian Ramos says, “As more people get access to the Internet, more capacity to the infrastructure that keeps the Internet running is needed, so that everyone can have a fast, safe and useful online experience.”
land of huge potential
Brazil remains a country rich in potential: it boasts huge levels of natural resources and is completely energy-independent. Its wind and solar power industries are growing and it also has big hydro-electric capabilities and a mature ethanol production sector.
Add to that its recently discovered oil deposits that are said to compare favorably with those of the North Sea, and it is possible to see Brazil as a truly powerful global commodities player. The ‘pre-salt’ oil fields, discovered in 2007, have been a boon to the Brazilian economy; recent production figures show an unprecedented 500,000 barrels a day coming from the fields, three times the amount being mined in 2012. The pre-salt fields led Brazil to aim for an ambitious production of 4 million barrels of oil per day by 2020, which would make it one of the top five global oil producers.
So while Brazil continues to have many challenges ahead, it nonetheless remains a country of incredible assets and resources – and they will be important to its long-term prosperity and success. The hope is that technology can empower people around the nation, bridge the digital divide and enable Brazil’s economy to make further progress.