Open Source in Brazil is a new free eBook from O’Reilly Media that offers an inside look into the growth of Brazil’s free software community despite the country’s unique barriers. Brazil has a vibrant IT and startup culture and hosts the largest open source conference in Latin America, Fórum Internacional Software Livre (FISL). The conference has been running for 17 years and had 5,200 participants in 2016.
According to Andy Oram, the book’s author, open source software is ubiquitous in the country but challenges in business, education, and government have slowed its wider adoption. The book offers a fascinating account of how the free software movement won political favor in the early 2000’s, launching many governmental initiatives to use open source solutions instead of proprietary software.
Unfortunately, the government was unable to deliver on these initiatives due to lack of expertise in evaluating software and working with open source communities. These factors, combined with a scarcity of local companies to help bridge the gap, and eventually corruption, caused more delays to converting government operations to open source software. These setbacks resulted in what Oram described as “inertia and corruption that leave companies and government agencies feeding huge amounts of money into proprietary software that was designed for the North American market.”
Brazil has also struggled to keep highly skilled developers who can mentor the next generation due to a “brain drain” to international cities with higher wages:
The education of developers that takes place in many developed countries is hampered in Brazil, as in many countries, by a brain drain. Basically, if you become an expert in your technological area, you can get a foreign job that pays more than Brazillian jobs and offers the enticements of living in a major tech center such as London or San Francisco. Thus, the people who could be attending meetups and mentoring the next generation of experts are drawn away.
Despite the free software community’s temporary loss of momentum, its unique challenges have prompted Brazilian developers to rely less on government support and find new ways of promoting open source software. “Open Source in Brazil” is available for free in both English and Portuguese.