How Can ICT Help Humankind?

I participated in a panel on this exciting topic last weekend at the annual Science and Technology in Society Forum in Kyoto, Japan (in the same conference center that hosted the famous Kyoto climate negotiations in 1997). I am passionate about this topic because it’s the reason I have worked in technology for the past 40 years – the ability to improve people’s lives. My fellow panelists included the Chairman of NEC, the Executive VP of Toyota, the CEO of Infosys, and the Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal. We all talked about the transformative power of technology to connect individuals around the world. I focused my remarks on the ability of this connected technology to revolutionize education, healthcare and the environment – by changing the way people learn, get access to care, and conduct their daily business.

Will Swope Speaks at STS 2008As with most of these conferences, the best part was the fascinating people I met. We had exciting conversations with foundations, universities and governments about how we can do more together to scale the technology pilots Intel is driving in healthcare, education and economic growth. And, in the category of random facts, did we know that the head of the research arm of the US Navy adopted our Intel Inside approach and required that anyone using the IP created by the department to build a product must have a sticker on it that says “powered by Navy research”? The head of the US Food and Drug Administration came up to me and said to say hello to Andy Grove next time I saw him.

At dinner, while the speaker was talking of global warming and running out of resources, the room was being overly air-conditioned and they served Kobe beef (which, we had learned in one of the keynotes, requires the same amount of water to produce as an entire year’s worth of drinking water). Such are the constant and some might say fascinating contradictions of these times.

Most intriguing session? Well, when the gentleman from Switzerland said that the United States didn’t want to release information on how to genetically improve crops because we used food as a strategic weapon, THAT sure got a number of US government people speaking in short order.

I have been traveling a lot recently, in the last month I have been in Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, Tianjin, Shanghai, Beijing, Kyoto, Tokyo, Santa Clara (8 days), and Portland for one full weekend (and three high school soccer games). I looked down on Osaka when I flew over it leaving Beijing and said to myself, geez, I’m back here in five days!!

Other highlights from my recent travels…Listening to the Prime Minister of China speak at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin about the progress in his country in the last 30 years, and how they are currently dealing with the milk crisis, was humbling. I met the person responsible for all ICT research funding in the EU for the next seven years (a mere 70 Billion Euros); he’s pretty impressive. Heck, Intel’s own Jim O’Hara is impressive – Intel Ireland reduced their energy consumption year over year while virtually doubling their output and bringing on a new fab. I am not quite sure how we did that, but I think magic was involved. I really didn’t know that until I went there.

Will Swope by the Golden Temple I can’t thank enough all of the Intel people that kind of carried me around the last month. Just the translation load was bad enough.

And to end on a high note … I just never take time for myself on these trips, but as I was working two full Tuesdays this week (I left Tokyo Tuesday night and then was in the office in Portland Tuesday afternoon), I did take 90 minutes at the Golden Temple in Kyoto. The picture does not do the place justice.