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IDF: Intel chairman's anti-Bush keynote

By Darien Graham-Smith in San Francisco

Posted on 19 Aug 2008 at 17:21

Intel chairman Craig Barrett had harsh words for the Bush administration in his IDF opening keynote speech.

The theme of the speech was innovation, and Barrett minced no words in spelling out his fears for the future of technological innovation in the US.

"What's the great formula to ensure economic success?" he asked a crowded hall. "You need smart people, a good education, you need to invest in R&D. R&D is how you move forward in the world's economic system. For that, you need the right environment, and the government dictates the business environment."

"Every country in the world knows this," he lamented, drawing on Intel's extensive relationships with technology manufacturers worldwide. "Every country except one. This one."

"We don't work as hard as we should on incentivising innovation," he went on. "The government refuses to acknowledge that investing in R&D is important to the future competitiveness of the US. Everyone else is recognising that."

Poor education

Barrett added that the problem was not limited to industry, but had its roots in the shortcomings of the US education system.

"It all starts with education, and education is the key. Every country recognises the importance of education, but look where the US ranks from an educational perspective. That's because we don't have good, certified teachers in maths and the sciences."

Barrett gave examples of the potential social benefits of innovative technology, such as reducing healthcare costs - an urgent issue for the US, where annual healthcare costs of $2 trillion are predicted to rise by 10% over the next year.

But in putting this figure in perspective, he again dropped in an implicit criticism of the Bush administration:

"I don't know if you've done the computation of how much we're spending in Iraq," he commented, "or what the difference is between a $50 barrel of oil and a $100 barrel of oil; but a 10% increase in healthcare costs wipes that out."

Revolutionary technology

Barrett concluded with a demonstration of an electronic medical records system that could slash red tape by allowing any doctor in the world to have instant access to a patient's details in an emergency.

But he couldn't resist a final wry dig at the Republican administration. He commented that the system could be a lifesaver should he suffer an accident "while riding my motorcycle from Belize to Bogot√°" - an allusion to the Communist revolutionary Che Guevara.

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