Barrett: IT can help to raise standards

Not enough attention has been paid to the role IT can play in helping raise social and economic standards in the developing world, according to Intel chairman Craig Barrett.

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By  Dylan Bowman Published  July 2, 2006

Not enough attention has been paid to the role IT can play in helping raise social and economic standards in the developing world, according to Intel chairman Craig Barrett. Speaking exclusively to IT Weekly prior to the first meeting of the UN-backed Global Alliance for ICT and Development, Barrett, who has been chosen to chair the body, warned that if the world’s governments and technology firms continued to deal with the issue on their own then only ‘slow progress’ would be made. “I think a uniform understanding of what the issue is and how the issue can be addressed is needed. If we can bring that to the fore and then mobilise the resources of the industry and governments behind it then we can make rapid progress,” said Barrett. “But if we just deal with our individual proprietary aspects of this it will be probably more of the same, slow progr- ess,” he emphasised. “I think we probably haven’t paid as much attention to what role IT can play in emerging economies as we should have. So I am very pleased that the UN is moving in this direction,” the chairman added. Launched in April, the alliance functions as a partnership supported by the UN, under the authority of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the auspices of its Economic and Social Council. It is made up of a small steering committee, chaired by Barrett, that dictates the direction of the alliance’s work, and a 60-member strategy council providing overall strategic guidance. Members include Malaysia’s minister for science Datuk Seri Jamaludin Jarjis, Cisco Systems chairman John Chambers, Microsoft’s global corporate affairs vice president Pamela Passman, IBM internet technology programme director Michael Nelson and EA Juffali and Brothers vice chairman Khalid Juffali of Saudi Arabia. The first meeting of the alliance took place in Kuala Lumpur from June 19 through 20 and involved over 700 experts from around the world. Proposed initiatives at the meeting included creating a cyber development corps, establishing resource centres to bo- ost human capital, and setting up networks and working gr- oups to promote outreach and partnership for action. Barrett said education, affordable hardware and connectivity, rich localised content, and entrepreneurial opportunity were five key areas for the alliance to focus on in order to have a positive impact on emerging economies. “Bringing these five things together I think can provide a tangible increase in the rate of [IT] adoption and therefore in the impact of technology on local economies,” he explained. The Intel chairman also highlighted the need to give local citizens opportunities to better them- selves as being crucial in achieving the alliance’s long-term goals.

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