Execs see technology as economic equalizer

By Marguerite Reardon

Barrett took the stage first, where he promoted Intel's newly formed program called Small Things Challenge, a partnership the company announced this week with microfinancing firm Kiva.org and Save the Children.

As part of this campaign, which is raising funds for Kiva and Save the Children, Intel has promised to donate 5 cents for every person who visits the Smallthingschallenge.com Web site, to push for development and education in emerging countries. And Intel plans to provide up to US$300,000 a year for the project.
During the keynote, Barrett provided several examples of how technology, including the new third generation Classmate PC Netbook, which uses Intel's low-power Atom chip, can help improve the lives of people living in poor countries. And he urged everyone in the audience to contribute to Kiva and Save the Children.
"You travel and see the impact that technology and your donations can have on children's lives," he said. "Whether it's Kiva or Save the Children, it's a small step toward making the world a better place. But each and every one of us can play a role."

Intel has enlisted the help of several celebrities to get the word out about the Small Things Challenge. And two of the celebrities supporting the effort, joined Barrett on stage, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows.

Chambers didn't need star power when he took the stage later in the afternoon. The charismatic executive walked among the crowd like a Southern preacher at a church revival. But his message was less about philanthropy and giving back as an individual, and more about how developing countries can implement technology to pull themselves out of poverty.

He started off describing what he considers the "pillars of national competitiveness" that will make developing nations more prosperous. The pillars are education, infrastructure, innovation, the ability to identify market transitions, a supportive government, and collaboration.

He said technology is important to developing nations because it helps drive economic growth, create jobs and improve productivity. And he said it could help improve the quality of life of people, especially when it comes to health care.

Chambers likened developing countries to businesses, and he compared his own company's successes in growing its business over the years to what countries must do to improve the lives of their citizens. He said that countries, like companies, need to look out for market transitions. But he also said that they need to have a clear vision of where they want to go, and they must be able to execute on that vision. What's more, new ideas need to be able to scale as well as be sustainable.

"Emerging countries are like companies," he said. "And they can follow the same path toward success. You must be able to execute. But you can't have speed without vision. And catching market transitions determines whether a company or a country is successful."

This article was first published as a blog post on CNET News.com.