Intel’s Barrett Slams U.S. Tech Policy

SAN FRANCISCO — Intel Chairman Craig Barrett kicked off the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 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 about sharing his opinion that the U.S. is falling behind in education. In January, he penned a lengthy critique for Forbes magazine. And in spite of speaking today before an audience of which Americans made up only a portion — owing to the fact that IDF attracts programmers from across the globe — Barrett still didn’t mince words.

“Nations are only as strong as their education systems,” he said during his keynote. “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 went on to blast 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,” he said. “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.”

While the topic has often been on the lips of its chairman, Intel has also made encouraging education and research and development a key focus of its own public outreach efforts. The company has long supported the International Science and Engineering
, and now is taking that one step further.

During his talk, 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.

Barrett also gave time to another pet cause of his: health care. He demonstrated the importance of an electronic medical records system by lying down on stage, pretending to be injured, and handing a card with his medical records to an emergency medical technician — played by a real-life doctor, who was present for a demo of how physicians could obtain medical records from anywhere in the world.

While Barrett focused chiefly on issues of policy, he was short on details of Intel’s efforts in more technical areas. Instead, those topics are likely to be the focus of IDF’s main keynote speakers later in the day: Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s digital enterprise group, followed by David “Dadi” Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the company’s mobility group.

Evidently, the other heads of the company feel the show is in good hands. CEO Paul Otellini is on vacation, while Sean Maloney, executive vice president and chief of sales and marketing — and the man often considered Otellini’s successor — is in Beijing for the Olympics.

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