Intel’s Developer Forum (IDF) is an event that is held a couple of times a year in different geographies.These are big events with thousands of industry partners and lots of press. We make several product announcements over the course of the event that get picked up in the press. The Spring event is currently being held in Shanghai. Most of the announcements are picked up by the major media and trade press. In fact, I was just reading this morning about new announcements to use Intel’s Atom processor in a range of products currently being called Mobile Internet Devices. Maybe it’s the sustainability or CSR lens I view business with, but what came to my mind was the opportunity this might afford social entrepreneurs to have full technology capabilities in any remote corner of the planet – or the great environmental footprint these new Atom processors have both in terms of manufacturing and energy use. Another announcement that came out Wednesday night had to do with the 2nd Generation Classmate PC (CMPC). Sure, this is good business news – these new devices termed “Netbooks” have enhanced features, longer battery life and are more rugged (water resistant keyboards and shock absorption). They are also being made available in mature markets as well as emerging markets. All well and good. However, I know these products have also been a key part of our efforts to improve Education world-wide. It is this part of the story that might not be picked up by the technology press, but is even more important to me. Intel ethnographers have been researching needs of students/children around the world for the past several years. We’ve conducted more than 70 pilots in over 30 countries around the world, working with governments to see how the CMPC could benefit local education systems. The engineers have taken what they’ve learned and built that into the spec for this 2nd generation CMPC. Is this business or CSR or both? I know many people who say it’s an either or question. If a company if focused just on CSR, then they are sacrificing the bottom line and vice versa – you can’t have it both ways. I’ve seen a lot of cases where that is true. I tend to view business indicators and CSR indicators as two banks of dials that I want turned to 100% for every initiative. That model is of course too simplistic, but I see it happening more every day. So, here is a situation where we are not just bringing a piece of hardware to market, but trying to provide a whole solution that includes connectivity, locally relevant content and teacher training to bring meaningful and affordable technology to students as a part of Intel’s World Ahead commitment. Hopefully users won’t have to make CSR judgments – they’ll just adopt the technology if it makes their lives better. That’s the true test of whether or not is was a good business, or CSR decision.
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