Recife, the port city in the northeastern coast of Brazil, is taking steps to compete with the likes of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba and build an argument that Recife too can become an mecca for international tech investment. But does Recife have what it takes?
Home to about 1.5 million people, Recife became a credible technology player 13 years ago when a sprawling area near the coastline become the focus on development. Today the tech park built at the location is increasingly referred to as “Porto Digital” or “Digital Port”.
With an increasing number of IT companies setting up shop in the tech park, Recife’s reputation is gradually improving. Brazil is not really known for exporting IT services, but Recife is increasingly focusing on developing software for overseas clients.
Brazil’s industry regulator, the National Institute of Industrial Production, has officially recognized the tech park as possessing requsite skills for developing software and meeting international standards for software development.
“As the champagne produced in France has to follow so many rules to be called champagne, software produced here will have to meet international standards set for developing software,” says Guilherme Calheiro, director of innovation in Porto Digital. “It took us four years to earn the recognition. It symbolizes important recognition for the services provided from here.” Porto Digital is made up of about 200 IT and software companies that generated more than US$ 500 million in revenues in 2012.
Today only 2 percent of the software developed in the tech park is exported and the remaining software products are sold inside the country. “The aim is to export more software in the days ahead,” Calheiro added.
“Now, more than ever, we will closely watch the quality of software produced here. The certification promotes, protects and qualifies a brand and a region. Companies installed here will have to respect that,” Calheiro said. Software developed in Porto Digital, according to officials, cater to a wide variety of sectors including financial services, information security, healthcare and the music industry.
Calheiro says the challenge facing the regulator is how to make sure that all the IT companies operating in the tech park consistently produce software that meets international standards.
The certificate comes with a set of guidelines for the companies to follow. Companies now need to maintain certain standards in areas such as innovation capacity, human capital, relationship with the market, partnerships with universities and research centers.
The coordinators, appointed by the Porto authority, will henceforth work with auditing firms to make sure that the high standards set by the regulator are met throughout the tech park, Calheiros said.
Employees and professionals at the park will now have to improve their skills in international languages because, he says, the ultimate aim is to export more and more software to overseas markets. “It is important for our clients to know that we produce software of high quality, comparable to the best ones produced in the world,” he added.
In its pursuit to become a regional technology hub, Porto Digital is gearing up to host a global conference of tech centers. Local officials say hundreds of researchers, developers and IT entrepreneurs from around the world will participate in the event.
Also in the offing is a plan to send a delegation of executives of local startups and IT companies to America’s Silicon Valley. “We have a very big software domestic market, but we are going to improve that (the exports). Companies from all over the world have to know that software producers here follow high standards of quality,” says Calheiros.