Brazil is open to open source

A blog postcard from the world's eighth largest economy.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit recently to meet with Lucid’s customers and partners around the globe. Earlier this week I had the pleasure of speaking at an event organized for business executives by our partner in Brazil, Primeware. The topic – no surprise – was open source enterprise search software. What I saw and heard seems to indicate the country’s broader sentiment about open source and growth.

Lately, Brazil has been getting a lot of attention. In 2014, it will host the next World Cup. In 2016, it will be the site of the first Olympics to be held in South America. And next week, LinuxCon will launch in Brazil. It’s the world’s eighth largest economy, and people are sitting up and taking notice.

For me, it is a pleasure to be in a country where the economy is actually growing. All of the participants at the event had growth and expansion plans, and open source is being widely used and embraced, from Lucene/Solr to Linux and beyond.

You may remember a few years back when President Lula da Silva pushed to transition the government’s network from Microsoft to open source, a move that showed Brazil’s focus on innovation and effort to embrace the best technologies that fit the realities of the country, rather than force-fitting something that didn’t make economic sense or suit its needs.

At the time, a BBC article on the topic stated, “Overall, the government reckons it could save around $120m a year by switching from Windows to open-source alternatives.” That’s a hefty sum for a developing nation. In addition to government agencies and state-run businesses, schools, enterprises and other organizations have been replacing their closed-source software with open source options. If you need more convincing that Brazil is open to open source, consider that the Associação Software Livre (Free Software Association) – a civil non-profit organization – held its 11th annual International Free Software Forum in Brazil last month.

So back to this week’s partner event. From conversations with the executives in attendance, I learned that their main motivations for using open source were quality, easy access, a short learning curve, and lower cost. The main deterrent was predictability, i.e. “When will version X.X be ready? When can I get the patch?”

Some participants are not using open source software at this time and so had various questions. The great thing was the initiative and positive attitude of the other participants who are using the software. They were quick to answer the questions, even inviting the closed-source users to their companies to see how they are implementing the open source software.

Most of the participants came from mid-sized and large corporations, but I did meet an entrepreneur in the process of launching a company. He stated that most of the startups in Brazil are getting seed funding from friends and relatives because the venture capital route is not obvious or readily available. With his own startup, he was hoping to reach profitability before pursuing “institutional” money.

It was great to continue and see the power of the open source community on another continent and in a country with a growing economy and a growing appetite for technology.

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