Education, health care, economic development and communications are the four key areas people should apply their technology to, according to Intel Chairman Craig Barrett.
"How do we use technology as a tool to improve education? How do you use technology as a tool to improve health care? How do you use it to improve economic development? How do you use it to, as a vehicle, enhance communications between government and citizens?" asked Barrett, who was speaking at the WCIT 2008 event. Barrett is also the Chairman of the UN Global Alliance of Information Communications Technology and Development.
Barrett further elaborated on how countries can adapt technology to improve and advance society. "You need to invest in new ideas, need to have government rules and policies that allow for investment in innovation. Governments and educators worldwide are saying a good education system is the way forward. These are the things that you need to ensure competitiveness."
Barrett has frequently championed education as an important factor in helping emerging countries bridge the digital divide. "Some people think that just throwing technology at the education processes is the thing to do, but in fact, I always think that the best thing to do is to ensure that the teachers are well educated," said Barrett.
In his presentation, Barrett cited the example of a school in Nigeria which exemplified just how much putting together the right technologies and well-trained teachers could accomplish. Instances included students who could access the Internet for more information and download pictures for their presentations.
However, a barrier to all these come in the form of high costs associated with setting up connectivity. "For instance, the cost of 100 Kb [kilobits] per second for connectivity--every increase of connectivity speed of 100 Kb per second would cost US$0.06 a month in Japan, US$40.50 a month in the US, and US$80 a month in Africa," he said.
Barrett also talked about how the public and private sectors could work together to achieve certain goals. He cited an example of how the Pakistani government had created a company called Universal Services Fund, based on a private-sector model, to bring computers to the remote regions of the country, awarding contracts worth US$60 million in ICT spending to private companies. The fund started working so well that the private organizations had to ask their government to slow it down.
Speaking on how technology could be applied in the area of health care, Barrett interviewed Dr Carlos Secco, a doctor based in a remote city in Brazil called Parinthins, through a live television conference.