Page last updated at 10:10 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 11:10 UK

The web makes waves in Brazil

Digital Planet
Sao Paulo Special
BBC World Service

A girl surfing the internet in a LAN house in San Paolo
The internet has become a part of everyday life in Brazil

This week the BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme is in Brazil. Here the programme talks to a typical net user to get a sense of what Brazilians do online.

There is no doubt that the web has caught on in Brazil as its web-using population has doubled in just three years.

In July 2008 more than 23.7 million Brazilians went online according to figures gathered by web statistics firm IBOPE/NetRatings. The figure is up 28% on the same time in 2007 and continues the trend of booming net use.

Proof that it has caught on can be seen in statistics which suggest Brazilians spend the longest time surfing from home than any other nationality.

IBOPE/NetRatings figures, based on sampling home net use habits, shows that Brazilians spend, on average, 24 hours 54 minutes online per month.

By contrast, North Americans spend 20 hours 30 minutes and Germans 21 hours browsing the web every month.

Surfing Japanese

While net access is popular in the homes of Brazilians, with 35.4 million homes connected to the web in July 2008, internet cafes, or Lan houses as they are known in Brazil, are becoming hugely popular.

So popular that they are springing up in underground stations and fast food restaurants.

I use it mainly for work, as I work with events, I have to be on the internet for about 4 to 5 hours everyday.

"People mainly check their emails and sometimes work stuff, like CVs," said Gus Neto, a regular Lan house user and a listener of the Digital Planet programme.

"They also come here to do a bit of networking, some are using MSN, that's what they come here to do.

"I was talking to one of the ladies who work her and she said that people don't have that good of a connection at home.

"If the connection fails, they rush here and make sure they are not going to be out of contact from the people they are talking to," he said.

The dark side

The internet has a reputation for harbouring some dark areas and for that reason, a rigorous check is done before anyone can use a computer in a Lan house.

"At one point the government of Brazil was worried that a lot of people would come to Lan houses and do dodgy business, especially with paedophilia," said Mr Neto.

"If people want to use one of these Lan terminals, they have to show their ID, so that they can be traceable," he added.

It's less expensive than using the telephone
The popularity of the internet cafes has lead to many staying open 24 hours a day.

"Some places have what we call, the owl session, which are places that will be open from midnight till six o'clock in the morning," said Mr Neto.

"You have to book in advance as so many people want in," he said.

Leading to love

Like many other nations as more people spend more time online they are starting to form relationships in new ways.

For many Brazilians online dating is becoming a popular way for people to meet each other.

"There has been quite a few cases where people have found their husbands and wives online," said Mr Neto.

I like to be informed about the news from the world
"It starts on Orkut, then it goes onto MSN, Skype and before you know it, people are getting married," he said.

Brazilians still prefer to surf via a web portal where sites and services give people everything from news to blogging and social networking.

"That's how the internet in Brazil started with big portals like UOL, Terra, Globo and iG.

"People got used to having everything in one place and it's much easier for people to use.

"Brazil is still a developing country and people are not as technologically savvy, so it's just easier to go to the one place and find everything you want," he added.

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