In Brazil, Internet Access Grows Rapidly, Even Among Poor

In Brazil, Internet Access Grows Rapidly, Even Among Poor

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Brazil's culture minister recently triggered an upheaval in his country's blogosphere with remarks that reeked to many of Internet utopianism. Speaking at a debate on new technologies in Rio, Gilberto Gil said he "absolutely" believes expanded Internet access could reduce crime in Brazil's violence-ridden slums, or favelas.

He went on to tell a story about a young man and woman from favelas controlled by rival drug gangs who were able to meet and fall in love thanks to the Internet, despite ongoing violence that otherwise would have kept them isolated. In the favelas, Gil said, young people can use the Internet to "leap over all the barriers in their way."

Many bloggers scoffed -- a flowery idea that ignores hard realities, they said. But Gil, world famous for his cerebral pop music, also has written a book on Internet culture. His remarks cannot be summarily dismissed as a politician's wishful thinking.

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