Imprimir Republish


The multiplication of ideas

Network wants to spread useful technologies to poor communities

A simple and innovative solution guarantees the survival of hundreds of families in the Brazilian semi-arid regions. In the surrounding of a water tank in a circular format, they plant vegetables, legumes and fruit that are irrigated by hoses or PET bottles. In the tanks themselves they breed fish and birds that feed themselves on nocturnal insects – strategically attracted by a lamp – and they enrich the water with the necessary nutrients for the development of these crops.

Called as Mandalla, this irrigation system – conceived by Willy Pessoa Rodrigues, a business administrator linked to a non-governmental organization in the region – is boosting the supply of food and the income of poor families.

Examples such as this have stimulated thirteen entities of the public sector, non-governmental organizations and universities – represented by the National Forum of Extension Pro-Rectors – to create the Social Technology Network in order to spread the use of innovative solutions such as Mandalla to other regions.

The project began to be drawn up during 2004, with the enthusiastic support of the Secretary of Government Communications and Strategic Management of the President of the Republic (Secom). “Social technologies need to break with isolationism and make themselves viable as national projects on a large scale. In order to invert this picture, we need articulation and cohesion between all the organizing agents”, Luiz Gushiken, the minister of Secom argued at that time. After a long period of gestation, the network was activated on the 14th of April with the objective of spreading very successful experiences, stimulating the development of new social technologies and guaranteeing the scale of diverse applications, duly adapted to regional reality.

Social technologies, in the government’s conception, are re-applicable techniques or methodologies, developed in an interaction with the community. They gained projection in 2001 when the Banco do Brasil Foundation created an award involving the selection of successful experiences and sponsored their implementation in other regions of the country. The Mandalla system, for example, one of the ones awarded a prize in 2003, will be replicated 1,100 times this year, in a foundation partnership between the Ministry of National Integration and the Brazilian Service for the Support of Micro and Small Businesses (Sebrae).

Data bank
The network can be accessed through the website, developed by the Brazilian Association of Technological Research Institutions (Abipti), which also gives access to a data bank with experiences in the areas of employment and income, water access, sanitation, alternative energy sources, health, education and housing among others. On the day of the inauguration, one hundred and thirty (130) public and private entities, along with non-governmental organizations had already joined the project.

The network has as its financial backers the ministries of Science and Technology and of Social Development and Fighting Hunger, the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep), the Banco do Brasil Foundation, Petrobras, the Federal Caixa Econômica and Sebrae. “Social technologies are generating employment and income in the poorest regions of the country”, explains the minister of Science and Technology, Eduardo Campos.

Each one of the above listed sponsors will annually contribute, at the minimum, R$ 2 million for the re-application of technologies previously selected. As well as this, there is a predisposition between the partners to integrate the network’s objectives into other social programs already ongoing. Petrobras, for example, as well as the R$ 5 million that the company will destine towards the network, will open up to the community wells which no oil was found but will give access to the water table, and could certainly be used for irrigation projects or even for the replication of Mandallas. “Many of these wells, which had been closed up, will be reopened”, says Luiz Fernando Nery, the company’s communications manager.

Learning with the people
The government’s expectation is to incorporate social technologies into public policies. The Secretariat of Social Inclusion of the Ministry of Science and Technology, foe example, has published tenders for the funding of social technology projects to the value of R$ 34.5 million, with the objective of stimulating the development of new technologies for the north and semi-arid regions. As well as the research institutes, entities that provide third party services can also make proposals. “We want to support the scientists that work with cutting edge technology and, at the same time, remember the forgotten part of Brazil”, says minister Eduardo Campos. “The scientists and researchers are going to learn with the people.” Finep can also already count upon a specific area for the support of social technologies, according to Eliane Bahruth, the director of Finep’s Innovation for Economic and Social Development. In partnership with the Federal Caixa Econômica and the Ministry of Social Development and Combating Hunger, the entity announced a public calling for the financing of the incubation of joint enterprises.

The network can count upon an executive secretary and will have its activities closely accompanies by a management committee, formed from representatives of the thirteen entities, which will meet every fifteen days. Annually a national forum will evaluate the established goals.

Award for good projects
The Banco do Brasil Foundation has opened up subscriptions for the third edition of the Banco do Brasil Foundation award for Social Technology. The eight best technology projects that have been successfully implemented into poor communities, will receive awards totaling R$ 400,000.00.

Qualified to participate in the competition are non-profit making entities such as universities, non-governmental organizations, cities and companies, among others. Those interested can register their projects until the 30th of June through the website:
All of the inscribed projects that fit into the concept of social technology will receive a certificate and will go on to be integrated into the Social Technology Bank, accessible to public management, social enterprises and community leaderships. “Currently we are re-applying a series of social technologies that were finalists and winners”, says Jacques Pena, the president of the Banco do Brasil Foundation.

Among these technologies president Pena cited the fourteen mini-factories involved with the cashew nut enterprise, in operation since 2003 with the support of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), Sebrae and Telemar. The expectation is that the project will create some 5,800 jobs in the states of Ceará, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Bahia and Maranhão by the year 2006.

This year, the award will have two special categories – social technology directed towards the Management of Water Resources and the Rights of Children and Adolescents – as a result of a partnership signed with Petrobras.