Fortaleza, capital of Brazil’s Ceará state, is the city with most international submarine cables in the Americas, as 18 systems are landing or departing from its shores, according to local authorities.
This network has leveraged a series of other investments in digital and telecom infrastructure, notably datacenters, with V.tal‘s second edge datacenter in Fortaleza – officially activated last week – being the newest facility.
Reports emerged in January that the state was in talks over two additional datacenters and two other submarine cables, one of which was rumored to be Google’s proprietary cable, Firmina.
As part of other technology developments, the state is also focusing on green hydrogen produced with wind and solar power.
In this interview, Ceará’s economic development secretary, João Salmito Filho, talks about the state’s competitive advantages and prospects for investments in both sectors.
BNamericas: Can you provide details about talks related to two new datacenters and two new submarine cables? Is Google’s Firmina cable system involved?
Salmito: I still cannot confirm these names, but we continue to receive executives and talk to different companies.
Our goal is to stimulate and take advantage of this competitive advantage that we have here in Fortaleza, on the corner of the Atlantic, where submarine cables arrive, to attract more and more investments. We want to attract investments that create digital infrastructure, a much-needed framework important to the technology innovation economy.
This is a point within the context of the digital economy.
A second point, a second strategy of ours, is to advance the construction of technological poles and the integration of these poles into the creation of a broader ecosystem, taking advantage of what has been developed at least in the last five years in the state, not to say in the last 10, 16 years.
Ceará did its homework, built a digital fiber belt, one of the first in Brazil, which guarantees connectivity to all its municipalities. We have also developed a network of high-level technical schools.
We now want to work on the integration of this production chain with some of these schools throughout the state. We have made progress, in the last four years at least, in attracting technology solution companies. Our next step is to consolidate this digital infrastructure economy and advance in the creation of hubs.
BNamericas: So each hub will have a focus according to the economic characteristics of the area where it’ll be located?
Salmito: According to the advantage of each area in the state, yes. In Ceará state, we have a region that offers greater advantages for the health economy, with reference hospitals and universities. So we’ll set up a hub there to attract investments and solutions in the health area.
Another technological hub, in the Jaguaribe Valley region, should be for solutions in the agribusiness area.
A third pole will be focused on education. The state’s northern region, the region of Sobral, is an education reference. So we intend to stimulate the creation of a cluster of solutions there. And so on.
We are currently defining an action plan, which will still be validated by the governor, and are building our strategic development plan. This project of technological hubs is part of this.
Our goal is to advance the creation of these technology hubs in 2023-24 and in 2025-26 integrate this ecosystem.
BNamericas: How will this stimulus come about? Tax breaks?
Salmito: Tax incentives, the offer of warehouses, physical structures. Red tape reduction. A whole set of stimuli, having the state as the inducer of this development.
BNamericas: Neighboring Pernambuco has implemented similar projects, like the Porto Digital pole. Are both states starting to compete to become the chief technological hub in the northeast?
Salmito: Pernambuco has extraordinary investment, an extraordinary initiative, which is Porto Digital, with the public sector there playing more of a leading role.
[Southern] Santa Catarina has a great initiative as well in capital Florianópolis, with the private sector in a leading role.
In Ceará, with these new competitive advantages, with submarine fiber optics cables, the digital belt, datacenters, we want to move forward not because of Pernambuco or Santa Catarina. But because this is the future.
Of five global companies with the best evaluation in the financial market, four operate in the technological solutions segment. So this is the economic engine of the planet.
And we have to look at our advantages. See, we can’t produce sugar. We don’t have conditions, fertile and propitious land for that.
Our agribusiness is closely linked to irrigated areas that fundamentally depend on the transposition of the São Francisco River. And the main reason for the transposition is to guarantee water security for the population of Fortaleza’s metropolitan region.
Due to nature, due to the predominance of the semi-arid [conditions], we do not have a totally perennial, permanent river. Every other major state in the region does. Rio Grande do Norte has oil, which we don’t have. Our competitive advantages are different.
BNamericas: Ceará has a lot of constant and abundant wind. Do you include clean energies, the development of green hydrogen, also as a competitive advantage?
Salmito: We have unidirectional wind, with technical studies proving an onshore and offshore competitive advantage for the development of electric power from wind. And producing electric power from solar sources.
With these technical studies, Ceará prepared itself to play a leading role in the development of green hydrogen.
The Porto de Pecém offshore industrial complex continues to have the only EPZ [export processing zone] in operation in Brazil, for over 12 years now.
And Pecém will spearhead this process.
BNamericas: How much green hydrogen investment does the state expect to attract?
Salmito: We have 24 MOUs signed to date, which, together, are equivalent to US$50bn in investments.
And we just started to produce the first green hydrogen molecule, on MW scale, in Latin America, at Pecém.