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Craig Barrett: Directing the passion

Posted: 26 Nov 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel technology  Classmate PCs  manufacturing process  Craig Barrett 

There's a fire in Intel Corp. chairman Craig Barrett's eyes as he describes his vision for equalising the balance of opportunity around the globe—and for leveraging technology to accomplish it. In the three-odd years since he gave up the role of CEO at Intel to Paul Otellini, it seems his passion for the cause has intensified as his vision has crystallised.

Early in his largely self-appointed mission, the objective seemed cynically parochial. It was as if he were searching for new places to shoehorn Intel technology. Remember the Nigerian schoolhouse outfitted with enough Intel-based Classmate PCs for every child, with Internet access secured over Intel-specified WiMAX?

At the heart of what drives Barrett (centre) is the belief that technology has the capability to afford motivated individuals in the emerging world a path to success

You probably do. As Barrett said in a recent interview, "Every journalist in the world has descended upon that school."

These days, though, the vehicles he points to for lifting the emerging world with technology are decidedly more non-partisan.

Like Kiva, a non-profit microinvestment outfit that pairs would-be entrepreneurs in the developing world with individuals in developed nations willing to lend them seed money. Or Health Management Research Institute, a company that applies call-centre technology to extend the reach of medical services into rural areas of India.

Part and parcel with the newfound clarity of vision is a growing fervor for the cause. Or so it appears.

Intel's chairman disagrees—on both counts. He insists the vision hasn't changed. And neither has his passion for the cause.

"Way before the Classmate PC deal, we were focused on teacher training and enablement," Barrett said. "The real challenge is to get the technology to the kids. You can't get hung up on whose technology is in their hands."

Of course, Barrett doesn't claim he's out solely to save the world. There is an underlying "business imperative" for Intel, as well. But that's icing on the cake. The saving-the-world part is what gets him excited. "Doing good by doing good," he calls it.

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