IDF: Opening Keynote or Opening Salvo?

Intel Chairman Craig Barrett opened the Intel Developer Forum with a bang, taking the U.S. federal government to task over what he felt was its failure to invest in education and research and development.

Barrett is not shy in his opinions that the U.S. is falling behind in education. In January, he penned a lengthy critique for Forbes magazine. And the IDF is a gathering of programmers from all over the world. In this instance, though, he didn’t mince words.

In discussing the U.S. education system, he said the one tool that could help students in the classroom is “a teacher.

“The answer is not throwing money at the problem, the answer is throwing good qualified people at the problem. There is a lack of good qualified teachers in the U.S. public school system,” he added.

Intel has long supported the International Science and Engineering Fair, and now is taking that one step further. Barrett announced the Intel Challenge, where anyone can submit an idea in one of four categories: healthcare, economic development, education, and the environment. The winning idea in each category will be awarded $100,000.

He went on to strongly criticize the U.S. government for what he felt was a lack of federal spending on research and development of all kinds. “R&D is how you move forward in the world’s economic system. For that, you need the right environment, and the government dictates the business environment��� Every country in the world knows this. Every country except one: this one,” he said.

Barrett went on to say “We don’t work as hard as we should on incentivizing innovation.  The government refuses to acknowledge that investing in R&D is important to the future competitiveness of the U.S. Everyone else is recognizing that.”

According to the federal Congressional Budget Office, fiscal year 2007 R&D spending by the government totaled $137 billion.

Barrett went on to discuss another pet cause of his, health care, with an odd analogy. “Our healthcare system is the mainframe computer of today. Today you get sick, you go to the hospital. We need to fix this. You should be able to solve technology to solve some basic diagnosis problems,” he said.

However, he did not propose an EKG machine in every home. Instead, he gave a demo of an electronic medical records system that would give any doctor in the world instant access to a patient’s medical records. He demonstrated it rather dramatically, by lying down on the state.

The man is a showman, if nothing else. As for Nehalem? He didn’t mention it once. That honor goes to Pat Gelsinger, who takes the stage at 12:35.

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