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IDF 2008: Education starts at home, urges Intel chairman

Intel’s chairman opens the show by lamenting his own country’s education system.

Technology has amazing transformational capabilities, but investment in education is where the real power of innovation lies.

So says Intel Chairman Craig Barrett who used his opening speech at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco today to point out his home country's shortcomings when it comes to recognising and encouraging educational and innovation-related potential.

"We don't focus as hard as we should on education. The Government refuses to acknowledge that investing in R&D is key to the future competitiveness of the US. Everyone else is recognising that. [The] issue is the environment for innovation," he told a packed room of delegates.

"What's the great formula to ensure economic success? [You] need smart people, a good education system, smart ideas, investment in R&D and you need the right environment for collaboration to get smart people together."

Barrett who was jokingly likened to Waldo from Where's Wally fame by Intel colleague Pat Gelsinger prior to his speech then used his extensive travel experiences to reference what is going on in the rest of the world, stressing the importance of geographic relevancy.

"If you're in Sub Saharan African today you don't give a damn what's going on in Wall Street. You need local content" he said.

"These are the developing countries where young people want hope and opportunity. The only way to get hope and opportunity going forward is through education. Every country I visit recognises the importance of education and striving to raise the level of educational capability. Recognising that is the key to the future."

While technology helps, just throwing money at the problem will simply be in vain, Barrett said, adding that when he was asked which piece of technology he'd put in a classroom his answer was perhaps not one expected of chip giant.

"My answer was very simple," he said. "I'd put a good teacher in that classroom."

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