Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Intel gears up to give Lebanon high-tech boost ceo Craig Barrett details broad development plan

Intel gears up to give Lebanon high-tech boost ceo Craig Barrett details broad development plan
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff


NEW YORK: Craig Barrett, chairman of the global leader in microprocessors Intel, has already made a pretty serious contribution to changing the way much of the world operates in the fields of business, technology, entertainment and communications. Now, he says, he and his colleagues in the high-tech communications and computer business want to promote change and expand opportunity for every child in the world, through partnerships with governments and private sectors in scores of countries. He will bring that endeavor to Lebanon on Tuesday when he arrives to announce a series of new initiatives that aim to help the reconstruction of Lebanon in a manner that goes beyond traditional assistance for short-term infrastructure repair or construction. "Intel and several other private companies in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector are partnering with the private sector, universities, the government and professional associations in Lebanon to promote long-term well-being through four main channels: economic development, education, healthcare and connecting Lebanese communities to the world," he told The Daily Star in an exclusive interview in New York earlier this week. Intel and other large ICT firms have already worked around the world through the UN-sponsored alliance for development through private-public sector partnerships. The Lebanon initiative is part of a growing new approach that sees Intel and other private sector companies working with non-governmental partners to bring the power and possibilities of information and communication technologies to vast new beneficiaries in the developing world. "We have already launched programs to train teachers and equip schools in countries like Brazil, Turkey, China and Egypt. In Lebanon we want to respond to the unfortunate post-war circumstances by developing opportunities for private sector partnerships that focus on creating job opportunities, training workers, enhancing the education sector, promoting entrepreneurship and generally connecting communities to the world through ICT," he explained. Intel will announce a series of initiatives in these fields, along with healthcare diagnostics that connect hospitals in Lebanon with leading facilities around the world. One aspect of this program, already under way, will offer some 500 young Lebanese internships in Lebanon and abroad.

Barrett did not sense any constraints or obstacles to this effort due to the turbulent political situation in Lebanon and the region. He explains this by noting that the work focuses on fundamental human and national development needs that serve all Lebanese and transcend political disagreements, such as education, job creation and better healthcare. The advances in technology also give Lebanon an opportunity to leapfrog over some developmental stages, by adopting wireless broadband technology in communities that had been held back due to lack of advanced wired communications networks, he said. Remote communities, in particular, can make a leap forward in education, healthcare, commerce and other fields when they connect to the global Internet. "We've seen this happen in several countries already where we worked with local partners to set up wireless broadband connections in rural and remote areas. Teachers and kids were the first to make use of the technology, and in most cases it instantly transformed their lives and conditions in their communities," he said. Working with millions of teachers in over 35 countries, the Intel Teach program has been driving systemic change in teaching and learning since 1999. Teachers learn from other teachers how, when and where to incorporate technology into their lesson plans, with a focus on developing students' higher-order thinking skills. They experience new approaches to create assessment tools and align lessons with educational learning goals and state and national standards. Intel's World Ahead Program has worked throughout the globe to expand the use and impact of advanced technology and communications in four primary areas: greater accessibility to computers and networks; expanding connectivity in remote areas through wireless systems; working with local authorities and non-governmental groups to enrich the content of computer and communications systems; and using ICT in schools to improve education. Barrett became chairman of the board of Intel Corporation in May 2005, having previously served as president, chief executive officer, member of the board and chief operating officer. He was an associate professor at Stanford University in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering before joining the company. Nearly 5 million teachers around the world are being trained in new communication technologies, and a key priority now is to rigorously evaluate the long-term, real impact of connecting communities to the global ICT network. One means of doing this is to work closely with local partners, especially in non-governmental sectors, so that newly introduced systems are well integrated and lasting. Intel's chairman said that he and his colleagues are very aware of the shortcomings that some other foreign aid and development efforts suffered by bringing assistance to a community and then seeing the progress stop suddenly when the foreign donor departed. One way to ensure this is to foster dynamism in the private sector, especially in entrepreneurship and job creation. The new initiatives in Lebanon aim to do this by promoting incubation of new businesses, seed funding for start-up firms, and basic entrepreneurial skills. "It's important for the government to ensure basic needs like clean water and health, and for the state and society to work together to promote quality education. You then need a robust business community to create the new jobs that will absorb the talented young people coming out of high school and college. Ireland showed the world a few years ago how a country that exported its youth because of insufficient opportunities at home transformed itself into a magnet for young talent that reversed its former brain drain and now sees a net repatriation of its talented and experienced workers and entrepreneurs," Barrett explained.

Two key elements for this to happen in Lebanon or other countries that export its educated youth, he suggested, are expanding the local ITC infrastructure and encouraging much more local content, whether in commerce, education, entertainment, media or other sectors. Barrett added that an expanding ICT sector that prods foreign and local investments also promotes sound legal foundations for business, such as investment rules, guarantees, exit strategies and general commercial codes and statutes. "Business codes that attract investment go hand-in-hand with expanding entrepreneurial opportunities and creating jobs, he concluded, pointing to India and China's rapid and sustained recent economic performances that were partly facilitated by clear foreign investment rules. All governments he had dealt with, Barrett noted, shared the common goal of driving economic development that comprised new investments, creating quality and high-paying jobs, raising the standards of the work force, improving education systems, and expands citizens' opportunities in general.

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