The annual Intel Developer Forum is here, and started with an opening keynote given by Intel’s chairman Craig Barrett about things much more relevant than just chips.
Seeing how Intel is one of the world’s largest technology companies, the keynote got off to an interesting start. Instead of delving into a speech about some new technology or manufacturing process, the overall theme of Barrett’s speech was technology in emerging economies. Visiting 30 different countries a year, Barrett has seen every stage of the economic process ranging from the earliest stages of the emerging economies in Africa to the “final” stages in Western Europe.
Barrett is the Chairman of the Board at Intel and he has quite the experience and knowledge to give credit to his claims. He is not alone on these insights though, with others such as Bill Gates making very much the same remarks. The world is becoming more competitive, and the current system that has pushed the U.S. ahead as a technology leader can’t be taken for granted. Continuing focus and innovation are vital if the country is to remain a world leader.
“Everyplace I go I see exactly the same thing. They all recognize that to be successful going forward, they have to know, understand and use technology,” Barrett said. “They have to use technology in education, economic development, health care, and communicating with their citizens...every nation realizes this is the wave of the future.”
One of the most important things an emerging economy needs is local content, said Barrett. “If you’re in sub-Saharan Africa today, you don’t give a damn about what’s going on in Wall Street. You care about what’s going on locally. You need local content for education...for business, for jobs, employment, for agriculture. You need local content for citizens to interact with their governments.”
Barrett also pointed a finger at the United States, claiming that the world’s most powerful nation needs to do more to nurture Research and Development, as well as overhaul the education system. Putting all the new and fancy equipment found in today’s American classrooms aside, much of which is provided by Intel and other tech giants – “A good teacher is the best tool for a good education anywhere in the world,” he added.
Integrating technology into the classroom one of Barrett’s pet projects, but sometimes technology is just too expensive for schools - especially when you’re talking about third-world classrooms in India, Asia and Latin America. The first of Barret’s guests was Dr. Johnny Chung Lee – who showed how classrooms can utilize a cheap and effective touchscreen white board using nothing but a square piece of foam core and a hacked Wii Remote built into a modified dry erase marker. The marker then became a fancy handheld mouse of sorts for electronic whiteboards. The touchscreen could be manipulated at several points, which Lee demonstrated with a generic grid, shrinking and expanding it with two of his fingertips. Barrett joked, “Some whiteboard makers are probably very happy about your invention.”
Next up was Kiva.com CEO Matt Flannery. Kiva.com is a website that allows people with a little extra money to give “micro loans” (about $50 on average, but often ranging from $25 to $250), to emerging businesses throughout the world, specifically third-world countries. “We tend to think of the bottom of the pyramid as people who deserve our pity, or people that deserve donations, but in fact most people at that stage are actually starting business that are quite profitable and quite successful and have high repayment possibilities.”
By giving out two loans a minute and boasting a 95 percent repayment rate, Kiva.com get thousands of applications a day from across the globe and has helped thousands more start a business in developing areas. $50 may not sound like much to the developed world, but it can reshape someone’s life on other parts of the planet, an ability made possible from the power of connectivity. Many of the loans on this service turn out to be by women, yet an issue with the service is still convincing people that their loans may actually be repaid.
Healthcare is yet another issue brought up by the Intel chairman, and his concerns about the current system are understandable. Barrett introduced Dr. Miguel Angarita, a doctor from Colombia who is helping to reshape the way medicine gets practiced on a global level. Working with Groove Media and Technologies, Dr. Angarita showed off a new “Portable Medical Record.” About the size of a credit card, a doctor can take a picture of the bar code on the card and immediately access medical records, transfer records if you are in a foreign country, and send an alert to you primary care physician. To demonstrate, Dr. Angarita took Barrett’s portable media record, scanned it with what looked like an iPhone, and minutes later, Barrett’s doctor in India shows his medical records on a laptop via a webcam.
Barret also spoke to technology and the environment, citing UPS as a major innovator in the field. By using GPS units in every delivery truck, and special efficiency software, UPS now shaves about three million miles off its routes every month, saving money in gas and drastically reducing the trucks impact on the environment.
Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum and sometimes you need some serious cash to get things off the ground. Barrett ended his keynote by announcing the Intel Inspire Empower Challenge which will award $100,000 prizes to people and companies who solve serious problems in education, healthcare, economic development and environment.
While the list of speakers and innovations was impressive, this is Intel we are talking about, and Barrett did not leave the audience completely empty-handed by touching on WiMax towards the end of the keynote. “We should see 50 million people covered by WiMax by year’s end.” Barrett projects a billion people to be covered by WiMAX by year 2011.
Expect more stories out of Intel in the coming day.