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Java and Free Software in Brazil

Bridging the digital divide

A couple of recent Brazil-related news events suggested the theme for this column: Java in Brazil. First, the annual International Free Software Forum (FISL) was recently held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. FISL is one of the world’s most important free software conferences, and more than 7,400 people attended this year, including many from Sun’s Java organization. Second, Sun Microsystems and the Brazilian organization responsible for digital television (DTV) conversion announced   that they would join forces to develop an open source content platform based on Java technology for use in the country-wide conversion of television applications and services.

Software Livre
FISL is a major event in the free software world, not only because Brazil is a significant emerging economy but also because the Brazilian government, under the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), has championed the cause of free software. (SouJava, the largest Java Users Group in Brazil and possibly in the world – they have more than 18,000 members – is a major participant in FISL. SouJava was the first Java User’s Group to join the JCP back in 2005, and its president, Bruno Souza – now a Sun employee – is a tireless champion of Java and open source.)

The Brazilians believe that “software livre” can help to bridge the “digital divide,” to ensure that all citizens have free access to public services, to preserve and defend national sovereignty (avoiding domination by non-Brazilian corporations), and to conserve national resources by eliminating software licensing fees. Because Java is based on open standards and is freely available, it has been – and is increasingly – adopted by Brazilian government agencies for the development of software that delivers services to its citizens, from taxation to health care.

For example, in Brazil, health care is free to all citizens. This posed a variety of organizational and management problems, from tracking patients’ records to scheduling appointments. To solve these problems, a comprehensive health-care automation system was developed entirely in Java. The system is designed to handle all the requirements of a public health care information system including scheduling, inventory management, billing, disease tracking, reporting and auditing, regulatory compliance, and security access control. The system, claimed to be the largest Java Enterprise application ever built, was first deployed to automate all health care services in Sao Paulo – the largest city in Brazil, and the fourth largest in the world with over 20 million people. Today the application is in production in Sao Paulo and 20 other cities and is being implemented nationally. The system has been open sourced by the Brazilian government for use by any public health organization, and its implementation is being considered in other Portuguese-speaking countries, such as Angola and Mozambique.

More Stories By Patrick Curran

Patrick Curran is chair of the JCP and director of the JCP Program at Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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