Invest or fail warns Barrett

Gulf countries need to invest more in information technology if they want to compete with developed economies, outgoing Intel chief executive officer Craig Barrett told IT Weekly in an exclusive interview.

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By  Peter Branton Published  April 3, 2005

Gulf countries need to invest more in information technology if they want to compete with developed economies, outgoing Intel chief executive officer Craig Barrett told IT Weekly in an exclusive interview. “The GCC needs to invest in IT as the next natural resource,” Barrett said. Currently, GCC countries lag behind countries in Western Europe or the Americas when it comes to PC and internet penetration, Barrett said. This reduces the region’s ability to compete with more developed nations in the West, he added. Other countries around the world were using IT to underpin their growth strategies, Barrett continued. “China, for instance, is trying to be the manufacturing capital of the world and India has a national plan in place to become the software capital of the world. Underlying these strategies is usually a very strong information technology and communications infrastructure,” he said. Dubai has ambitions to become an economic portal and this will require investment in IT, Barrett said, warning that a failure to take technology seriously could hamper the emirate’s plans. “As the world moves more and more towards knowledge-based economies, the whole concept of new ideas, intellectual property and so on are going to be the driving force for wealth creation,” he said. The outgoing Intel chief executive officer was in the region to meet with GCC government leaders and discuss two educational initiatives that Intel is working on in the Middle East. “These are really an extension of our overall interest in education,” he said. The first programme is to provide technology training to teachers so they can use IT equipment in classes, Barrett said, while Intel is also working on an initiative to translate online teaching material into Arabic. Barrett is no stranger to the Middle East, having visited the UAE in 2002, as well as trips to Jordan in 2001 and 2002 and Lebanon in 2003. He admitted to being impressed by the development the region has made in that time. “You can see something of a leapfrog effect here,” he said. “The infrastructure that you’re able to put in with new construction allows you to not only have a metropolitan hardware loop but allows you to run fibre to the curb, for just about any construction project. That infrastructure improvement is starting to become very noticeable.” Intel is considering an infrastructure investment in the region. Barrett said the vendor was looking at establishing a local research centre, although he appeared to rule out a manufacturing plant. “If you look at China, we’ve been selling products there for about 20 years. Ten years ago we started to do software engineering, and a year ago we added a manufacturing plant [in China]. So the sequence of events typically goes in that fashion — early involvements are in education and dealing with people that distribute our products... Its only after some experience in a country do we put an engineering centre in place,” he said.

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