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Intel should do more for developing countries, says chairman Barrett

by Tarinder Sandhu on 19 August 2008, 17:37

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

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Chairman of the board speaketh

Craig Barrett kicked off the morning keynote of IDF 2008 by talking what Intel is doing to inspire innovation, and he didn't even mention Nehalem once!

Cutting through the usual hyperbole that accompanies lyrical keynotes, Barrett, Intel's Chairman of the Board, spoke to the assembled forum visitors about how technological advances have impacted upon the lives of practically every person alive.

Barrett reminisced that the first teraFLOP computer was engineered 11 years ago, taking kilowatts of power, a room-sized chassis, and pointed out that  the same calculations can now be done on a single CPU: progression has been incredible (surely a GPU is better at this, right?). In line with the technological advances, Barrett, in his jet-setting role as executive chairman, highlighted that there's now a global economy, with almost every country appreciating that technology and education need to be used hand-in-hand to further progress.

He pointed out that 85 per cent of young people live in developing countries, and it's up to the IT community to make absolutely necessary hardware cheaper. We've seen laptop pricing become more accessible of late, driven by small, cheap computers, but basic classroom tools are still lacking.

Following on from this, Barrett rolled out Johnny Chung Lee, whose innovative whiteboard, used in conjunction with a 'hacked' Wiimote that's re-used as a pointing device, provides a workable solution for under $50, but you still need a projector. The supporting software, Chen noted, has had over 600,000 downloads.

Moving through gears, Barrett mooted that future technology needs to be somewhat divergent with respect to location. Thinking of the first-world countries, healthcare costs will continue to rise, inexorably so, and it's up to the IT community to solve some of the pressing problems by making it personal - digital health, if you will. Developing nations need medical technology for basic diagnosis, irrespective of where the patient may be - rural or urban - and technology companies should put greater efforts into delivering cheap, effective healthcare to the masses, he mused.

Intel cannot do it alone, Barrett said, and it needs partnerships, be they public and private, to move the technological goalposts farther forward. 

Bottom line: IT should be more than just about making money, according to Barrett. It needs to be semi-altruistic, leveraging education to makes lives better. It all sounds great, with Intel slapping itself on the back for financing various projects such as the Science Talent Search (STS), but, being cynical, isn't it all about exploring new revenue streams that hide under the banner of education and progress for mankind?

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