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Cybercafes for Sao Paulo's poorest citizens

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The Brazilian city of Sao Paulo is offering its poorest citizens a chance to get connected for nothing, the BBC the reports.

The left wing local authority has opened almost 100 "telecenters" - free Internet cafes - where any of the city's 20 per cent unemployed can enjoy up to one hour's free surfing a day.

"We want to take the telecenters to the poorer areas in the periphery, to reduce the social and economic divide," explains Beatriz Tibirica, co-ordinator of the so-called "E-Government" project.

The initiative is now powered by GNU/Linux which allows the cafes to use a single-server/thin client set-up. This saves cash both on hardware and software licence fees. The switch to Linux is part of a national government drive to cut software costs.

Interestingly, the Internet cafes survive unmolested in some of Sao Paulo's roughest neighbourhoods, such as Cidade Tiradentes, where public buildings are commonly burgled and trashed. It remains to be seen what concrete benefits - in terms of education and jobs - they can bring to Brazil's disenfranchised masses. ®

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