In the village of Várzea do Mulato, the mobile telephone network is not available and the internet connection is via radio. In one of the few houses on the street with red clay floors, a young man subverts the logic of local work. Darlei Pereira da Silva, 27, is an Android system developer. From his gaming chair in the office set up in one of the rooms at home, he creates applications for cell phones across the country.
The young man, who grew up in the community where the majority of the population are rural workers, 20 km from the center of Senhor do Bonfim (BA), says he had no idea that one day he would work in the applications market. “I wasn’t interested in technology because, in fact, I didn’t even know that this universe existed.”
Silva was the first at home to complete high school and enter college. “Here we live in a bubble. In the region, few people went to college. If you don’t have an opportunity, you can create one through education,” he says.
The biggest encouragement came from my mother. Farmer Jucilene Alves da Silva, 51, who did not have the opportunity to study and never left the backlands of Bahia, is proud to see her son crossing borders.
“Things were very difficult, but I did everything for them. I always said that I didn’t learn, but my children, with faith in God, would learn, because only those who have studies achieve something”, she says.
It was during the geography course at Univasf (Federal University of Vale do São Francisco) that the young man began to see the opportunities in the technological world. In one of the long conversations on a 2,400 km car trip to Paraguay, where he presented a paper on field geoprocessing in 2018, the idea for the first app came up.
From there, he created an online guide to the Maria Maria environmental reserve, which is located in Saúde (BA), where he did his internship.
Silva began creating applications without courses or direct guidance: he created ideas and created programs following tutorials on the internet, even with the language obstacle, as most of this content is available in English.
The success of the first experiment among professors at the university and also in schools in the region motivated the young man to change areas. After completing his degree, he started computer engineering at the same university.
Its first release that ended up in the Android operating system application store was “Meet the Biomes”. The educational app tells the main characteristics of each Brazilian biome, such as spatial area, climate, fauna and flora.
Silva says he receives a lot of feedback from teachers who use the tool in the classroom. Therefore, he considers this his greatest success, with more than 5,000 downloads.
With educational applications, Silva has already achieved other recognition in the area. In 2021, one of his ideas was selected in the Campus Mobile competition, held at USP (University of São Paulo) in partnership with Instituto Claro.
In the competition, the Bahian created the “Mobbilizy Game”, which explains in a playful way the prevention of diseases for children and adolescents. The work came first in the category.
One of the challenges of the games is fighting mosquitoes Aedes aegypti, covering water tanks. Another is to get alcohol gel and kill the coronavirus. The difference in Silva’s creation is its contextualization with his region. In comic book aesthetics, the game takes place in the virtual city of Bonfinópolis and has the typical countryman as a character.
Silva points out drawings of plants native to the backlands, such as umbuzeiro and cashew tree, on his cell phone screen. The inspiration for adapting the content to the local reality comes from studies on Paulo Freire (1921-1997) that he carried out during his degree. He himself hand-drawn all the vegetation in the region and transferred it to the game.
“In addition to the games, it is necessary to bring the region’s identity here because it helps the student relate to their daily lives”, he explains.
As a reward, Silva traveled to the United States and visited Silicon Valley. The changes in routine were evident. He was selected for internships at multinational companies and, today, works from home for a company in the Southeast.
College also changed, to reconcile with the work routine. Now, he is studying development and systems analysis at a private institution through distance learning.
Personal investment in educational apps continues, even when working in the corporate sector. In August, he launches a new game, focused on learning mathematics.
“I want to help in some way with education, even though I know it won’t be as profitable,” he says.
Among the young man’s plans is to live in Canada, but he says he later intends to return to the region where he grew up. “I want to have a different experience, but here will always be my anchor.”
Silva’s example is an inspiration for other young people in the region. Doubts arrive via social media, students from different cities curious to know what it’s like to work with technology and how to get started in the sector. At home, his younger sister followed in his footsteps, switching from agricultural engineering to studying systems development analysis.
“Little by little, we convince people. If education helped me get to where I am, I have to contribute to those to come”, he says.