Last week I have had a chance to visit Brazil for the first time. I visited three cities in five days, presenting about government IT trends and predictions, social media and open government. In all cities I had a pretty good audience, as well as interactions with government officials and representatives of government-owned IT service providers.
Unfortunately I had no time for sightseeing and certainly missed the most touristic spots, but the visit gave me the impression of a great, fast-developing country with a rather insular attitude. From the use of no other language than Portuguese when calling flights at each domestic terminal I visited, to the very limited (if any) knowledge of English for most of the airport staff (security, shops, etc), to the tone of several discussions, I had the impression of a rather introvert country, concerned with its own growth challenges and perhaps less attentive than it should to what other parts of the world have been doing.
There are a couple of areas that come to mind.
The first one is the positive attitude toward open source. While most of the countries that had taken an aggressive stance on the adoption of open source have now realized that it is only one among different sourcing models, I have found quite a few spots in Brazil where open source is still given an edge with respect to commercial software, despite costs or risks (mostly related to skills availability) associated to some of it.
The second one is a less acute perception of trends like commoditization of technology and industrialization of IT services, which leads insourced service providers to be more complacent about maintaining and strengthening their current portfolio of IT services as opposed to repositioning where their value proposition can be more immune from the influence of highly commoditized services from vendors.
In both cases Brazilian IT executives are justified by a weaker pressure (if any) on cost containment and sustainability and by the important role that government It can play in shaping local markets and skills in a still developing economy. On the other hand, a growth economy can be attractive for vendors that struggle with decreasing budgets in more mature regions and that could disrupt the role of government IT organizations and captive service providers.
Despite these challenges, I found that people were receptive and quite smart, so I am confident that many will be able to prepare for these challenges and turn the advent of industrialized IT in the country into an opportunity to focus their considerable resources on areas of innovation and excellence, also leveraging the momentum created by the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.