Please find the original text below, submitted in Portuguese.
In Brazil, one name is synonymous with the digital culture movement: singer and songwriter Gilberto Gil. He has been referred to as a cyber-activist, warrior for free software and a “minister of hacking”—and he is considered the “ambassador” of this cause.
Gil has made a career out of challenging conventional wisdom and showing sufficient interest in the role that the Internet is playing in transforming the world. At a recent festival in São Paulo called youPIX, the singer, who turns 70 next year, was keen to stress the importance of how the Internet has challenged the status quo in politics, business and society.
It turns out Gil practices what he preaches. In June of this year, he provided all his discography to mobile platforms like Apple and Android. Gil is one of the great enthusiasts of the copyleft—a concept advocating openness and transparency by opposing the copyrighting of artistic works.
Known worldwide for his tropicalista songs—referring to the rhythm he invented with the Bahian Caetano Veloso—Gil was one of the two first musicians in Brazil to talk about the importance of digital culture. Even in the 1960s, he was a renegade in releasing a song called “Electronic Brain” which talked about robotics. By the 1990s, he unveiled “Through the Internet,” a song that predicted the potential unifying power of the Internet. The song became an anthem of sorts for Brazilian cyber-activists.
Americas Quarterly hosted its first online chat earlier today. Focusing on Brazil, the conversation addressed the underlying conditions of and possible solutions to the digital divide—the exclusion of disadvantaged and minority populations from the opportunities brought by technology. Paolo Rogério, author of The Digital Integrator in the Winter issue of AQ and founder of Brazil’s Instituto Mídia Étnica, and Evan Hansen, editor-in-chief of Wired.com, were featured panelists in the discussion.
The conversation yielded several conclusions. Participants agreed on the importance of government regulation to encourage access to technology. Pontos de Cultura, a government project that promotes access to technology in rural communities, for example, is considered a great success. But LANhouses—private, informal arrangements that often function outside of legal and regulatory boundaries—provide many people with Internet access, and several groups are advocating for friendlier environments for such informal providers. Hansen proposed a study examining the growth of LANhouses as related to national GDP. Another conclusion reached was the need for education to accompany access to technology. The full discussion thread is available online.
AQ encourages readers to continue this conversation by posting comments below.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.