Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Brazil Getting the Poor Online

"Since taking office two years ago, President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva has turned Brazil into a tropical outpost of the free software movement..."

"...By the end of April, the government plans to roll out a much ballyhooed program called PC Conectado, or Connected PC, aimed at helping millions of low-income Brazilians buy their first computers."

"Under the program, which is expected to offer tax incentives for computer makers to cut prices and a generous payment plan for consumers, the government hopes to offer desktops for around 1,400 reais ($509) or less. The machines will be comparable to those costing almost twice that outside the program.

Buyers will be able to pay in 24 installments of 50 to 60 reais, or about $18 to $21.80 a month, an amount affordable for many working poor. The country's top three fixed-line telephone companies - Telefónica of Spain; Tele Norte Leste Participações, or Telemar; and Brasil Telecom - have agreed to provide a dial-up Internet connection to participants for 7.50 reais, or less than $3, a month, allowing 15 hours of Web surfing.

The program aims at households and small-business owners earning three to seven times the minimum monthly wage, or about $284 to $662. The government says seven million qualify, and it hopes to reach a million of them by year-end."

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