IDF, San Francisco – While technology is a tool to address some of the world's greatest challenges in terms of healthcare, education, economic development and the environment, it is in the area of education that it has the most vital role to play – especially in emerging economies.
In his opening keynote at IDF, Intel chairman Craig Barrett said that every country he visits in his role as an "IT industry ambassador" recognises the importance of technology and that they have to harness it to be successful.
"Everywhere I go, they all recognise that to be successful going forward, they have to understand technology and have to use technology in education, economic development, healthcare and the environment," says Barrett, who travels to about 30 countries every year. "Every nation realises this is the way to the future and that they are dependent on the quality of their workforce and that they've got to have the right environment to attract investors."
Barrett says that he's ofen asked on his travels what the right formula is for a country's success.
"To have economic success," he says, "there are three things you have to focus on: smart people, smart ideas, and you need the right environment for collaboration – to get these smart people together."
Barrett says IT is one of the key aspects to becoming competitive. "You need access to technlogy," he says. "You need community information flowing back and forward, so you need broadband; and you need the content on this to be localised. In sub-Saharan Africa they don't give a damn about Wall Street.They need local content for agriculture, for their citizens to be able to interact with their government.
"And they need education," he adds. "They need to know how to use this technology as a tool.
"It really does start with education," Barrett says. "This is absolutely key, especially in emerging economies where 85% of the world's young people want hope and opportunity – and the only way is through education so that they can participate."
Barrett says that despite other challenges developing nations may be faced with, "every one recognises that education is the key to the future."
"It's not just about investing money," he says. "I'm often asked if there is one tool I'd recommend [for success]. My answer is simple: I'd put a good teacher in the classroom.
"That's the best tool for education anywhere in the world," Barrett says.
At the end of his keynote, Barrett announced that Intel will award four $100 000 prizes for the most innovative ideas in education, healthcare, economic development and the environment.
"But don't think that $100 000 will go into your pocket and you're going to be rich," he joked. "The money will go toward further developing the winners' innovations."