Intel gets political in opening IDF keynote

Written by Tim Smalley

August 19, 2008 // 6:54 p.m.

Tags: #barrett #craig #developer #education #forum #francisco #idf #idf-fall-2008 #intel #keynote #opening #policy #political #san

With Intel CEO Paul Otellini away on holiday, the opening keynote was left to Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel and current chairman of the board. He opened proceedings at IDF in San Francisco this morning with a keynote that was light on content, but full of strong political messages.

Barrett made it clear that he wasn’t going to discuss products from the outset and instead discussed some key problems that innovative technology has helped to solve. Before he got to that though, he had several, more important things that he wanted to get off his chest.

Along with serving as chairman of the board of directors at Intel, Barrett is also chairman of the United Nations Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development – a job that essentially makes him a global ambassador for the technology industry.

As part of his duties with the UN, Barrett travels to around 30 countries each year, overseeing the implementation of technology in the developing world. And with that in mind, Barrett couldn’t resist using this stage as an opportunity to say some strong words about the US government’s education policy.

On his travels, he has grown to realise that education is incredibly important in these cultures and he believes that it’s a reason why nations like China, India and even some nations in Africa and the Middle East are growing at such an exponential rate. He believes that these countries are investing heavily in education and also in research and development—or, as he put it, their future—while developed countries like the United States aren’t.

In many respects, the same is true in the UK as well, where the state school system just isn’t as good as it should be – even though our students are continually posting record pass rates in GCSE and A-level exams. The problem, Barrett believes, is that developed countries are using technology to great effect, but they’re forgetting that the most important thing in any classroom is the quality of the teacher. He rightly pointed out that everything else should be secondary to that.

Barrett finished by saying that “Nations are only as strong as their education system” and in the long run, I guess that is true. With developing nations growing at such a rate, you have to wonder how long it’ll be before they’re even bigger players in the technology sector – perhaps there’s something the developed world can learn from those still developing? Share your thoughts with us in the forums.

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