1 Brazil frees up $13bn to boost economy (BBC) Brazil’s central bank has announced plans to reduce the amount of money commercial banks keep in reserve, in a bid to boost economic growth. The bank says the measure will free up some $13bn, which banks could lend to businesses and individuals. The Brazilian economy is expected to expand by 1% this year – the fourth consecutive year of sluggish growth.
The central bank announcement comes less than three months before presidential elections. President Dilma Rousseff will seek a second four-year term in October. In 2010, when she was elected, Brazilian gross domestic product grew by 7.5%. Growth dropped to 2.7% in 2011, 1% in 2012 and 2.5% last year.
The decline in Brazil’s fortunes, cutbacks in public services, continuing corruption and what is seen as excessive spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have brought protesters out on to the streets over the past year. The economy had become over-dependent on exports to China under former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, analysts say.
Exports to China grew at roughly four times the rate of total exports between 2000 and 2010. As Chinese demand fell away, Brazilian growth stuttered, weighed down by poor infrastructure, high consumer debt and sagging business confidence.
2 Amazon’s quest for global domination (The Observer/The Guardian) The day after Amazon warned that its operating loss in the coming September quarter could be as high as $810m, support for its founder shows no sign of wavering. Jeff Bezos has a reputation for sacrificing profits in favour of long-term growth, but the warning still came as a shock. Wall Street had been expecting just $8m. The shares dived 15%, wiping £15bn from Amazon’s stock market value.
The reasons given for the upcoming losses are a very diverse range of aggressive, well-funded investments. Amazon is investing in faster dispatch for all goods. More ambitiously, it wants to become an online grocer. Even more ambitiously, Amazon Studios is having a stab at becoming the next HBO or Netflix.
Amazon may make more money from general merchandise, but its window display has always been entertainment – books, music, films, TV series; a sector that will sooner or later be sucked into a black hole. And Amazon is far from dominant in the download arena. The device makers and software writers – Google with its Playstore and Apple with iTunes – are already building billion-dollar music and video retail businesses. And so Amazon is building its own devices. First a tablet, then a set-top box, and now a mobile phone.
Creating hit television series, running an online supermarket, making smartphones: these are difficult things to do well, even for companies that specialise in only one of them at a time. None the less, Amazon’s can-do approach has proved doubters wrong in the past – most notably with its Kindle tablet.
But Bezos wants customers to live in a company town, in the same way that some of its authors write books that are published by Amazon, reviewed by Amazon customers, sold in its online store, and read on its Kindles. Amazon should focus on retail and forge alliances – with device makers, TV companies and studios. Unfortunately, while Bezos has achieved much, his turbulent relationship with the publishing industry suggests alliances are not his strong suit.
3 Girls and computer codes (Kristen V Brown in San Francisco Chronicle) Many blame the tech industry’s underrepresentation of women on the fact that so few women are exposed to computer science early in their lives. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization working to address that piece of the gender gap by providing young women access to computer science education.
This summer, Girls Who Code is offering a seven-week crash course in coding and engineering to a small group of high school students. The course covers everything from robotics, graphics and animation to app development, entrepreneurship, data structures and algorithms. The young women even got to attend a roundtable discussion with Square CEO and founder Jack Dorsey.
Girls Who Code’s goal is to expose 1 million women to computer science by 2020. So far, the group has found that 95 percent of participants consider studying computer science after taking the course.