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This morning at the Emerging Technologies Conference, Brazilian minister of culture Gilberto Gil Moreira talked about how his country is leveraging digital technologies to create social change. “Technology and culture have been wrongly placed in separate fields, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries,” he said.

Gil said that his ministry’s digital-culture department has formed more than 650 “cultural hot spots” by giving free, open-source hardware and software to grassroots groups to use for purposes both artistic and political. For example, he said, Amazonian indigenous tribes are using the technology to record traditional songs.

Gil feels that digital realities represent an opportunity to make access to information more democratic. “Today, the mobile phone is a fetishized item of consumer design,” he said. “Potentially, it can be a tool of activism.” He said that he envisions grassroots groups one day using mobile phones to connect local content to the larger world in real time.

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program also fits in with Gil’s vision. After relaying that he was deeply moved by the sight of 400 Brazilian children interacting with laptops in a pilot program, he added, “It’s the whole process that matters, not just the first item.” Gil said that he is pushing the Brazilian president to add infrastructure, such as broadband connections, that will provide a national backbone to support OLPC.

Gil is passionately optimistic about the power of digital technologies. “I wish digital culture may become one key in building our utopia,” he said.


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Tagged: Web, politics, OLPC, developing world, digital divide

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