Studying Brazil

[To round out my research, I need to study the BRIC countries — however I realize I do not have the time to give them much more than a cursory look in all their dimensions:  demographics, political economy, sociography, history, culture, religion, etc.  So I thought if I were to look at them through the lens of how it might affect the expression of their cultures/countries online, that might be sufficient.

Now, please, I am not a regional expert by any means, so if I overgeneralize or say something blatantly wrong, please correct me in the comments but don’t take what I write personally — I’m only going off what I could find online, mainly using Wikipedia (read Brazil’s page).]

Brazil

Government: A former Portuguese colony, the country fell to numerous military coups up until the 60’s, when it formalized a constitution.  Successful subsequent elections and peaceful transitions of power have consolidated democracy.

International Affairs: Brazil is the clear regional power in South and Central America, with the 5th largest population in the world and a large economy.  Dubya, according to Parag Khanna’s “The Second World”, said of Brazil, “Wow!  Brazil is big!”  And a former diplomat said, “Our self-perception involves nothing less than being the organizing principle of the contintent — not displacing the United States, as Venezuela would like, but alongside it.”

Demographics: Quite a young population with only 6.4% older than 65 years of age.  Made up of many different immigrant groups, but they have intermarried and intermixed such that racial issues are not nearly as significant as large divides in socio-economic and class status, with mega-slums next to wealthy neighborhoods, with little middle class in between to mitigate the two.  Portuguese is spoken universally.  The population is densely gathered on the coast of Brazil, with the interior sparsely populated.  Population is further concentrated into the two cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.  There are significant problems with quality of literacy and with mortality rates for infants and mothers.

Religion: Roman Catholic 74%, Protestant 15.4%, 7.4% agnostic. (according to the Brazilian IBGE agency census)  Largest Roman Catholic population in the world.

Telecom: Brazil is the third largest market for mobile telephony behind China and the US. Broadband deployment is less than desirable and demand is there for high-broadband use such as video.  How do Brazilians primarily access the internet?  Do they use their cell phones more than their computers for socializing?  A Brazilian friend of mine says no; internet cafes are ubiquitous and there are even promotions at gas stations for internet usage.  But mobile data is still prohibitively expensive.

Surveillance:

Brazil has been in the news for its spying scandals on white-collar crimes. Said an article in the Wall Street Journal, “For some, Brazil’s wiretapping mania is a holdover from the country’s 20-year dictatorship, when secret police kept tabs on political enemies. The government spies were nicknamed arapongas — after birds known for their metallic, alarming cries. Military rule ended in 1984, but not Brazil’s culture of spying.”

It’s not clear that the people fear government surveillance — they may even support it in the name of fighting economic corruption — but the wealthy have taken measures to avoid detection and recording by the government.

For the purposes of my model, I am not sure whether to classify Brazil as afraid of its government or not.

Social Media Usage:

In our Y!/ISD research, we’ve found that the BRIC countries and the US seem to have two social networking sites (SNSs) that are competing against each other.  This is not the case in Brazil; Brazilians overwhelmingly use Orkut (owned by Google) as their SNS, although they use ancillary sites for non-networking tasks like photo storage.

According to comScore, Brazilians spent more time online than any other country in Latin America in September, 2008, at 26.8 hours in the month, a bit higher than the worldwide average.  They love to use social media, more than any other country in the world.  They have the largest online population, more than doubling the #2 country, Mexico.  Also according to comScore, Brazilians spent an average of 496 minutes on Orkut in September, 2008!

Questions

I would consider, outside of a massive disparity between the rich and poor, that Brazil is fairly homogenous.  Could this account for the online expression of being overwhelmingly in favor of only using Orkut for social networking?  With such a large population, one would think there would be room for competitors, but there are not.  This is unlike the other BRIC countries and the US, which have fierce SNS battles underlying a global move towards Facebook (which has barely caught on in Brazil).

Brazil seems to be an exception to the rule.