IDF Day 1: Craig Barrett Keynote: "Inspiring Innovation"

The Human Element

This human element can help improve education, healthcare, economic development, and even communications with citizens. But it requires educating the workforce. You need the right environment for innovation. Barrett says he sees that all over the world now, except for one place--the U.S. He says that the U.S. doesn't focus enough on education and innovation. He is dismayed that the U.S. government doesn't invest in R&D as so many other countries do for future competitiveness.

So what is the right formula for innovation according to Mr. Barrett?
  • Smart people
  • A good education system
  • Smarts investments in R&D
  • The right environment for collaboration
  • The right tax rates and regulations
Barrett says that IT is a key aspect of competitiveness. You need access to technology, hardware, software, and connectivity. You need the broadband capability to support rich content. You need localized content (farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa don’t care about Wall Street). You need to enable citizens to interact with their governments. Barrett says it all starts with education. He says that 85 percent of the world's population are in emerging economies. It is through opportunities offered through education that enable individuals to participate in a free economic system.

Barrett says that every country he visited recognized the importance of raising the quality of education. It's not just about raising money either. He says that if could put only one thing into a classroom, it would be a good teacher. While technology helps, the key is how you intelligently use the technology--and that is part of the value that a good teacher provides.


Barrett welcomed a "bright star of innovation" to the stage, Dr. Johnny Chung Lee, and expert in computer-human interfaces. Lee demonstrated a low-cost ($50) electronic white board using existing technology. With a Wii remote, a PC, a projector, and an IR pen, Lee demonstrated his concept projected onto a piece of white foam core (any flat white surface should suffice). The software is available for download for free from Lee's Website. He also demonstrated another use for the technology with a physics simulation program that even supported multi-touch tracking with multiple IR pens. Lee's purpose to was to demonstrate that people can do these sorts of things themselves. His advice to the crowd was: always share your work; and if you don't become overly obsessed with performance, you can see dramatic savings in cost with little compromise in functionality. Lee says that over 600,000 people have downloaded his software and that a number of teachers and students are using it in their classrooms and projects.

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