[governance] FW: [TriumphOfContent] Seven Questions: Wiring the World's Poor

Michael Gurstein gurstein at gmail.com
Sun Mar 4 18:42:09 EST 2007


-----Original Message-----
From: TriumphOfContent at yahoogroups.com
[mailto:TriumphOfContent at yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of BBracey at aol.com
Sent: March 4, 2007 10:15 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: [TriumphOfContent] Seven Questions: Wiring the World's Poor


Posted February 2007
Most of the world's population, including the vast majority of the
developing world, remains unwired. Everyone agrees on the need to bridge
this digital divide, but there's hardly agreement on how to get the job
done. Intel Corp. Chairman Craig Barrett has been at the center of the
debate. In a recent conversation with FP, Barrett fired back at his
critics and sounded off on the future of the Internet.

Digital uniter: As head of the United Nations' Global Alliance for
Information and Communication Technologies and Development, Intel's
Barrett has been at the center of efforts to bring the Internet to the
developing world.

FOREIGN POLICY: Last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Switzerland, Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of One Laptop per Child,
accused Intel and you personally of approaching Third World development
from a market perspective. How do you respond?

Craig Barrett: Well, I think that was only a characterization put
forward by Mr. Negroponte. Let me provide some factual background, which
may allow you to judge our actions on their merits. We've been involved
in supporting education as a philanthropic activity since the company
started, 38 years ago. We've put well over $1 billion dollars into
supporting education in the last decade. We've trained over 4 million
teachers around the world in the last five years, and we've committed to
train another 10 million over the next five years. So, I took
Negroponte's comment with a grain of salt. If there was anybody making a
marketing comment in the room, I think perhaps it was Mr. Negroponte
FP: There's a school of thought that says, just give computers to
children in poor countries and they will start a revolution. What's lost
in that approach to technology and development?

CB: What you potentially lose is: You spend a lot of money to give kids
laptops that might be more intelligently spent on creating the
infrastructure-training teachers and creating the environment for
education. In all fairness, if you listen to Nick [Negroponte] and the
constructionist approach to life, they take the attitude that most
teachers in the emerging economies have a fourth- or sixth-grade
education, that they're only competent to lead students in song and
dance. And if you give kids computers, they will set up their own
communities, their own content; they'll learn collectively. That is what
drives Negroponte and the One Laptop per Child approach. That is not the
unanimous position of educators around the world. It has not been the
position of companies like Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco, who recognize
that technology is just a tool, and who suggest that you need not only
the tool, but the connectivity, the content, the teacher training to
make it all work.

FP: In many places where people talk about bridging the digital divide,
there's still no electricity or access to clean drinking water. Why not
spend money on bridging those basic services first?
CB: We operate off of the philosophy that every child ought to have a
generically equal opportunity. And you could argue that means every
child should have clean drinking water, three square meals a day, and a
roof to sleep under. And there are lots and lots of people working on
clean drinking water. We also think that if you give the kids in the
Third World clean drinking water, food, something to sleep under, they
also need to be able to have a productive adult life. They're going to
need to earn a living, and they need some education. So our focus has
been on education, because we look around and we see lots of people
working on those other topics.

FP: Fifty years from now, will we look back and see the Internet as the
most transformative technology in a place like Africa, or will it be
something more mundane, maybe the cell phone?
CB: Voice communication, cell phones, and some of the light digital
stuff are important. No question about it. And I think most people
recognize that the information access you get with a small-screen cell
phone is kind of limited and, therefore, you need a bigger screen. That
kind of implies PCs and the Internet. But at least they'll tend to go in
tandem. It's not one or the other. The argument over whether the cell
phone dominates or the PC dominates has been going on in the developed
world for the last 15 or 20 years. In reality, we've found that ours is
a society of three screen sizes. There's your small screen-BlackBerry or
cell phone. There's your interactive screen-that's your PC. And there's
your couch potato screen-your TV. Those three will coexist in the
developing world just as they coexist in the developed world.

FP: How will the next 1 billion Internet users, most of whom will be
from China and India, change the focus of companies such as Intel in
terms of research and development and other priorities?

CB: Well, you start to look at the design of the technology with their
environment in mind. You don't design PCs like [the one] I'm sitting in
front of at my desktop right now. They have to be dustproof. They run
off batteries. They have to be inexpensive. There are lots of different
aspects you have when you start to worry about product design and
creation. There's some good points to this, from the local level, too.
Because it's not just the outsider company coming in to sell stuff to
the Third World. PCs can be assembled and made by local entrepreneurs.
Secondly, the content is important. Typically, content is created
locally; it's not created by an outside third party. So it creates
economic opportunity in the delivery as well as economic development in
the use.

FP: Are Web 2.0 applications such as YouTube and MySpace the revolution
that the media makes them out to be?

CB: I think there's a huge excitement about Second Life and MySpace, and
what I call reality software. It's kind of aligned with reality TV as we
see it today. I think it remains to be seen whether there is a place for
reality software in the enterprise, or whether it just stays as a form
of entertainment. You know, I'm not sure that the majority of the world
is going to want to spend four hours a day in another space because they
don't like the space they're living in physically. We have to see if
there are enterprise applications that can use that [technology] to see
whether it's just a fad today like Survivor, Lost, or The Apprentice are
on television.

FP: What will Intel look like 50 or 100 years from now?

CB: Anybody who makes any projection [about] what their company's going
to look like in 100 years has to be crazy. Ten years ago the Internet
was essentially nothing. Today it's kind of everything in our industry.
So in the space of a decade everything can change. If you ask me what
our company looks like in a decade, I think it's still somewhat similar
to what it is today-producing computing solutions. We're still following
Moore's Law, so we're still a happy inflationary industry, providing
more for less; so I don't see it changing too much in 10 years. But
don't ask me to say what it's going to look like in 50 or 100 years.

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