Since 2000 there have been a number of initiatives in Brazil to provide access, training, and equipment to people using the Internet. These have been backed by different government ministries and others are grass roots projects such as MetaReciclagem. The Ministry of Culture is headed by the well-known musician, Gilberto Gil who hired a close associate, Claudio Prado, to serve as underminister of digital culture. Their project, now several years old, is Pontos do Cultura or digital bridges. There are 650 known projects and others that use the name but are not officially registered. Under the government program a group can receive equipment for access, video production, training in open source tools, and a small monthly stipend.
On Saturday, September 29, Gil and Prado were in San Jose, and I planned a short tour of the town to see a few cultural sites. Unfortunately the Digital Clubhouse which most resembled the Pontos do Cultura--without the open source emphasis--seems to have closed its doors and the phone is disconnected, but there is still a web site. We did visit where they are installing an exhibit of digital photos taken by teenagers who took a summer course at MACLA. Joel Slayton of Cadre/San Jose State University was also in the group as we went up the street to the Tech museum. Peter Friess, the director, gave a tour of Bodyworlds 2 the recent exhibit that attracted huge crowds the day we passed through.
One of the reasons for their visit to the area is to seek support for a new NGO called The International Observatory of Digital Culture which will continue the work they have begun but extend it outside of Brazil after they leave the government. It is likely there will be more formal meetings later in the year and perhaps a public event in 2008.