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Brazil: The South American superpower

August 23, 2017

Genius Wong   

Genius Wong, Executive Vice President – Core and Next-Gen Connectivity Services, and Chief Technology Officer

When the good and the great of international sports flocked to Rio de Janeiro and entered the spectacular Estádio do Maracanãfor the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games under the gaze of Cristo Redentor, it felt for all the world that Brazil had arrived.

Finally, this sleeping giant of the global economy, steeped in an ornate culture of arts, sports and entertainment was ready to realise its potential. Fast-forward and a year later there is still work to do for South America’s most advanced economy. Many regard Brazil’s Olympic legacy as a fallacy, as stadiums have become dilapidated and economic recovery has slowed.

From forest to metropolis

Rather than announce its arrival as the South American superpower, the global spotlight on Brazil’s games reopened the scars of a developing nation in the eyes of many. Spending on the games had come at the expense of industry, infrastructure and the people.

The warning signs were apparent two years previously when protesters took to the streets to complain about national expenditure on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, even despite a national obsession with football. The overriding message was that Brazil wasn’t ready. For beneath the outward projection of prosperity was a soft underbelly of underdeveloped infrastructure, for which it would pay a heavy price in the long term.

As well as economic commentators, some of Brazil’s national heroes such as Pele have expressed concern regarding Brazil’s perceived lack of investment in infrastructure. These issues point towards a reality behind the carnival – so what are the challenges facing Brazil from an infrastructure perspective?

Brazil may be the ninth largest economy in the world but it is one of the most complex. It covers four time zones with everything from the vast rivers and rainforests of Amazonia to metropolises such as Sao Paulo – the most populous city in the Americas. Brazil is also the fifth largest country in the world in terms of both land mass and population, so its ground transport networks face huge challenges.

The South American superpower?

While the natural and urban geography doesn’t make it an easy country to travel around, Brazil now seeks parity with its economic counterparts in terms of its technological infrastructure. Five years ago Brazil lagged behind in this area, which presented a crucial strategic issue which undermined industry, contributed to centralisation and drove inefficiencies in transport and utilities.

However, despite the economic downturn Brazil is on an upward trajectory technologically. TechCrunch reported that Brazil’s tech sector is booming despite social and political challenges, while investments in its tech start-up scene have increased, according to the FT.

Furthermore, Brazil is taking a holistic view of its connectivity infrastructure – starting with one of its largest trading partners – the US.

To address growing demand for high-bandwidth connectivity from carriers and enterprises, we have invested in a low latency cable system linking the business hubs Sao Paulo and New York. Seaborn Networks’ Seabras-1 subsea cable system will provide enterprises and service providers with much needed secure, reliable, connectivity and access to Tata Communications’ global subsea fibre optic cable network, TGN.

Putting Brazil on the map in terms of global connectivity is just one step in its economic evolution. However, it is a vital one which provides a solid foundation on which businesses and policy makers can build.

Look out for part 2 of this series, and in the meantime check out some of our previous blogs on emerging markets.