Brazil’s emer­gence is by de­sign

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION - Hector ruiz Ruiz, for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ad­vanced Mi­cro De­vices Inc., lives in Austin and trav­els glob­ally as an ad­viser to technology ven­tures.

Brazil has edged steadily onto the world stage in re­cent years, be­com­ing a key po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic leader in Latin Amer­ica and, in­creas­ingly, in­ter­na­tion­ally. As one of the so-called BRIC group­ing of the largest and fastest-grow­ing emerg­ing mar­kets (Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia and China), Brazil is ex­pected to emerge as a dom­i­nant econ­omy over the next three decades. More­over, as host to two colos­sal world sport­ing events, FIFA’s 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Sum­mer Olympics, the coun­try will com­mand un­prece­dented at­ten­tion for the next sev­eral years.

To the ca­sual U.S. ob­server, Brazil’s rise to global promi­nence may seem sud­den and dra­matic. But for those of us who for years have been in­trigued by Brazil, its eco­nomic di­ver­sity and vast po­ten­tial, we have long an­tic­i­pated this moment.

Over the course of my ca­reer in the high tech in­dus­try, I have had oc­ca­sion to work in Brazil and to ini­ti­ate and be in­volved in var­i­ous projects there. Through these en­gage­ments, I have had a win­dow into the coun­try’s evo­lu­tion into an in­ter­na­tion­ally ori­ented, mar­ket-driven and tech­no­log­i­cally so­phis­ti­cated econ­omy.

Strong lead­er­ship, strength­ened democ­racy, sound poli­cies, po­lit­i­cal will, fis­cal and struc­tural re­forms, global de­mand and a host of other fac­tors — prob­a­bly even luck — have con­trib­uted to Brazil’s suc­cess. But from my unique van­tage point, I’ve seen the im­por­tant role that technology and the coun­try’s devel­op­ment of its tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties have played in Brazil’s trans­for­ma­tion.

The Brazil­ian govern­ment has long given pri­or­ity to build­ing tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors. Dat­ing back sev­eral decades, re­search in­sti­tutes were es­tab­lished in as­so­ci­a­tion with sta­te­owned en­ter­prises in se­lected sec­tors, in­clud­ing telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, elec­tric­ity, oil and aero­space, among oth­ers. With strong govern­ment back­ing and a sus­tained com­mit­ment to re­search and devel­op­ment, the in­sti­tutes worked to boost com­pet­i­tive­ness of the state en­ter­prises, de­velop en­gi­neer­ing tal­ent and to build on and de­velop com­par­a­tive ad­van­tages in tech­no­log­i­cally dy­namic sec­tors.

One of the most well-known of these in­sti­tutes is the In­sti­tute for Re­search and Devel­op­ment (IPD) that is at­tached to the Aero­nau­tics Technology Cen­ter, set up to un­der­take re­search on ba­sic aero­space tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing air­craft de­sign, en­gines and ma­te­ri­als. Dur­ing its ini­tial years, the IPD, like other state-di­rected tech­no­log­i­cal ini­tia­tives, fo­cused on the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of ba­sic ca­pa­bil­i­ties. This led to the launch, to­ward the end of the 1960s, of Em­braer, which has de­vel­oped and adapted suc­cess­ful air­craft plat­forms for spe­cific, high-growth mar­ket seg­ments. To­day, as a pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion, Em­braer is the world leader in the mid-size jet sec­tor and one of the world’s largest air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Brazil has achieved re­mark­able suc­cess in other ar­eas as well. Petro­brás, Latin Amer­ica’s largest com­pany (by mar­ket cap­i­tal­iza­tion and rev­enue), is one of the world’s top oil com­pa­nies and is widely rec­og­nized for its ex­per­tise rel­e­vant to tech­nolo­gies for deep-wa­ter and ul­tra deep-wa­ter oil pro­duc­tion. The coun­try has as­tutely cap­i­tal­ized on its abil­ity to ef­fi­ciently pro­duce sug­ar­cane to de­velop lead­ing edge al­ter­na­tive fuel (ethanol) and bio­plas­tics in­dus­tries. And there are sim­i­lar sto­ries of eco­nomic strength and mar­ket lead­er­ship in agribusi­ness, con­struc­tion and min­ing, among oth­ers.

It seems clear that Brazil’s grow­ing suc­cess in these in­dus­tries is owed in part to the fed­eral govern­ment’s com­mit­ment to cre­at­ing and fund­ing cen­ters for re­search and devel­op­ment and pur­su­ing pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships that can cap­i­tal­ize on ar­eas of tech­no­log­i­cal ex­per­tise and spring­board in­dus­tries into the com­pet­i­tive in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.

In Brazil, there also has been an abil­ity to use avail­able tech­nolo­gies to cre­ate mar­ket niches and plat­forms for con­tin­ued growth. Brazil­ian banks have long in­vested in technology; as a re­sult, on­line bank­ing took off early in the coun­try and cus­tomers have ben­e­fited from in­no­va­tive prod­uct of­fer­ings. Like­wise, the Brazil­ian govern­ment’s in­vest­ment in technology has con­trib­uted to the coun­try’s sta­tus as a global leader in the devel­op­ment of e-govern­ment ap­pli­ca­tions, such as e-pro­cure­ment, on­line tax ap­pli­ca­tions and na­tional elec­tions.

Now Brazil is work­ing to de­velop de­mand for do­mes­ti­cally man­u­fac­tured semi­con­duc­tors by tag­ging ev­ery cow in the coun­try with a track­ing chip that will also as­sist the govern­ment’s ef­forts to main­tain and en­hance the safety of its beef sup­ply.

Brazil has taken a unique ap­proach to de­vel­op­ing its tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties and to us­ing avail­able tech­nolo­gies to ad­vance its eco­nomic goals and in­ter­na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness. Along with the coun­try’s ris­ing eco­nomic for­tunes and dy­namic devel­op­ment, there seems to be a new sense of con­fi­dence among Brazil­ian busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers — a grow­ing re­al­iza­tion that Brazil’s time might, at last, be now.

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