Fusing his education in engineering and social and political thought, Afonso’s approach to Internet accessibility focused on how to best serve humanity and social justice. In 1981, he co-founded IBASE, where he conceived and led the first Internet service project in the country. Alternex, as it was named, launched in 1989 as a free service for civil society organizations and individuals. It rose to global recognition in 1992 when Afonso proposed and coordinated its use at the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the first use of the Internet at a UN event. That demonstration opened the eyes of hundreds of world leaders to the benefits of global communication and helped to promote the Internet in Brazil.
Alternex was also an example of a startup incubator for the Internet in Brazil, as it functioned as an Internet gateway for hundreds of bulletin board systems, many of which became some of the largest Internet service providers in the country.
APC, a member of the UN’s Economic and Social Council, is an international consortium of non-government organizations formed in 1990 with the mission of promoting universal access and democratization of information and communication using computer networks.
Afonso also influenced the growth of the Brazilian Internet and made an impact on global Internet governance as a founding board member of the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee. Currently, Afonso leads Instituto Nupef, which deploys community networks in poor and neglected areas in Northern Brazil. He is also a member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the UN Internet Governance Forum.