florianopolis brazilPhoto by Mariko Shaw

An island off Brazil’s South Atlantic coast is fast becoming a tech haven.

Start-ups wanting to swap electricity pylons for palm trees are escaping the vast traffic-ridden Brazilian megacities and heading to Florianópolis – now dubbed Tech-nópolis.

To date, 600 tech companies are already based in the tropical island’s main city, with 40 IT companies opening or migrating each year. And why wouldn’t you? Linked to the mainland by a suspension bridge, the city of Florianópolis lies on the 33-mile long island of Santa Catarina, made up of 17th-century fishing villages, jungle-covered hills, emerald lagoons and dozens of pristine white-sand beaches.

The catch? Your broadband could go at any moment. Yes, internet connection in this tech hotspot is poor and irregular. Despite being a new area for specialised tech companies to set up camp, Tech-nópolis is seriously lacking in fibre-optics. In our wireless age, most homes on the island still opt for a landline connection because wifi doesn’t cut it – in fact frequently, it just cuts out.

Another issue blocking residents and businesses from functioning internet is tough environmental legislation that brings bottlenecks to electricity projects. Also, two thirds of the island is a protected nature reserve, which inevitably turns any improvements to infrastructure into a bureaucratic battleground.

To tackle the poor landline connection (ah, the fond memories of the dial-up tone), the IT and communications sector has encouraged the creation of condominiums to house companies and help secure a better connection. Over the past two decades, two technological parks (also home to families of monkeys) and six incubators were set up in Florianópolis. Sapiens Parque expects to house more than 25,000 tech lovers across 400 companies over the next ten years.

The island may not be the Silicon Valley of South America quite yet – it’s got deep-seated logistical headaches, a shortage of tech graduates and a bloated Brazilian bureaucracy to confront. But while sipping a superfood smoothie from fruit grown on your doorstep, before cycling along the waterfront to tech HQ, it’s hard to see who wouldn’t be tempted by this Latin cyber space.

TOP TECHY INVENTIONS FROM FLORIANÓPOLIS

The OZON-IN information point helps protect beachgoers from staying too long in the sun. Set out across the island’s 42 beaches, the points give users a reading of UV radiation severity – and recommend protective measures to take according to skin type.

The BAFÔMETRO is an in-car breathalyser that disables the engine unless the driver passes a breath test. It takes a photo of the driver and then alerts authorities if they are over the limit so test results are immediately transmitted to stations.

PIP! the social network that links people interested in sharing recipes was launched last year in Santa Catarina and already has over 60,000 users.

This article was originally published in Volume 8 of SUITCASE Magazine.

Words by Lucinda Elliott

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