by Richard C. Hall
Director, Corporate Strategic Alliances – Intel Corporation

In Armen Orujyan’s last Blog (“The Miracle of Technology”), he emphasized that through the use of ICT “we have the means and access to tools to make dramatic changes in our lives.”

As fellow members on UN GAID’s (Global Alliance for ICT & Development) board of directors, Armen and I share similar thoughts about the power of technology. So I’d like to talk about the fast-developing digital economy, and how we should all encourage people to create new business opportunities for themselves as a means to help us out of the “great recession.”

There are four elements or pillars (access – connectivity – education – content or A.C.E.C.) that are key to the digital economy. You can’t be successful without all of these. You can have the newest laptop, the most up-to-date Intel processor, or the most advanced smartphone in the world, but if you don’t have Internet access where you are, then you can fall way short of your goals. So, “access” is first. Then you need “connectivity” to the Internet. Next, you need a certain level of “education” to manage the extensive flow of information that is out there. And then you have to have good “content.” Those are the four pillars needed to establish a successful digital economy, a place where ultimately everyone is connected in an organic way to a global information infrastructure.

Whether they’re young people in education or people establishing their own business, or researchers of any kind, if you have all those four pillars in place and you’re fully connected to the digital world, then you can be empowered. At Intel, we believe very strongly in A.C.E.C.

Speaking of connectivity, here in North America we are used to a fairly straightforward connectivity via DSL or cable via large telecom providers. In the emerging countries, there’s the problem of very limited connectivity where a lot of villages have little or no electricity. Then we go back to the point that Armen made in his last Blog about implementing solar panel briefcases or similar alternative energy sources.

But the lack of a traditional infrastructure still hasn’t held back the growth of connectivity in some very harsh parts of the world. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa where income levels are very low, the use of mobile phones has exploded with hundreds of millions of units in use. It’s relatively low cost and widely available, and the connectivity part of it is somewhat simpler to do than full connectivity for a laptop running at high speed. So it’s a growing solution for huge numbers of people.

There is no one blanket technological solution for nations or people that lack resources to better their conditions. Every country is different. Take one example in real time, Tanzania in sub-Saharan Africa, which has an enormous shortage of teachers — tens of thousands of teachers short for all sorts of socio-economic reasons.

One specific solution, such as the “Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow” program, that technology can offer to the young people is being worked on by the government right now. It’s very difficult to go find 50,000 to75,000 new teachers, and it would take many years to get them trained. But what you can do via technology is that through remote access, you can establish and connect up one teacher to a much larger number of students over a widely scattered area. So technology can help fill that gap by offering online learning. It’s the type of online learning you’ve seen emerging in Western Europe all the way up through post-graduate degrees, and some form of that can be applied right there in Tanzania. This is one specific example where technology can work around a big gap in the nation’s resources, and help empower people.

We’re supportive of efforts by organizations like Athgo. At Intel, we’re trying to be a leader in this area. The big private sector technology companies like Intel, Microsoft and Cisco, really do have the resources to make this all happen over time. But digital empowerment is a team effort. Thank you for this great opportunity to speak to you all.