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U. Texas-area gathering displays innovations for every niche
[May 04, 2006]

U. Texas-area gathering displays innovations for every niche

(Comtex Business Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)AUSTIN, Texas, May 04, 2006 (Daily Texan, U-WIRE via COMTEX) --An opportunity to build successful business partnerships and fulfill social responsibilities to a global community brought Rosemary Segero all the way from Kenya to visit Austin, Texas, and the World Congress on Information Technology, taking place this week.

Segero's intentions matched the thinking of such industry giants as Advanced Micro Devices CEO Hector Ruiz, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who also shared the goals of changing the world while tapping into new and growing markets.

Segero, of African Investment Consulting Consortium Inc., said she attended with a delegation from Uganda that was ironing out the details of a major computer manufacturer's move to the country. She was also promoting the African Rural Areas Education Support Fund to help bring educational technologies to the rural, poor areas of many African countries.

Here, the delegation had the chance to do both, Sergero said. If they couldn't find investors at the WCIT, they could at least find donations for a good cause, she said.

Gov. Rick Perry got the festivities rolling with some self-deprecating Texas stereotypes, as he welcomed delegates from 81 different countries to the summit.

"While the delegates may have noticed not every Texan rides a horse to work and has an oil rig in their backyard, one stereotype is true -- Texas does things bigger," Perry said. "Bigger belt buckles and also big ideas," he said.

The collective brain power of attendees was only matched by their collective ability to help the common good, Perry said.

Ruiz continued the pledge by outlining a plan for his company. The plan, known as 50 by 15, hopes to bring Internet access to 50 percent of the world's population by the year 2015.

AMD demonstrated that goal by providing a Personal Internet Communicator to every delegate visiting the Congress. The PICs are devices designed to provide simple, durable and reliable Internet access for people in high-growth markets. They provide basic computing needs, such as Internet access, e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet tools and video streaming in a package only 5.5 inches wide that weighs only 3 pounds. AMD hopes the delegates try out the device and spread the word about its usability and potential, he said.

Intel also brought products that would assist in this effort. Otellini showed off small, durable, low-cost devices that could easily bring Internet access and computing functions to large groups of people. They announced they would donate $1 billion to an effort to eliminate the digital divide between developed and developing nations over the next five years.

In Mexico, 300,000 students were assisted with such products, Otellini said. Mexican President Vicente Fox filmed a short video that played during the demonstration to thank Intel for its efforts.

One student notebook was designed to be "almost kid-proof" and would cost less than $400 when completed next year, Otellini said. It is planned to have a wireless connection to the teacher's console, so the teacher can coordinate online lessons and control the child's Web browsing if the student got distracted and wandered off subject, he said.

But these are not entirely altruistic campaigns. These companies are seeing the potential for new markets to open up with some slight encouragement from the tech industry.

"We can do well, by doing well," Ruiz said.

Even if there is only a small profit per individual, the relatively low cost to produce the devices and the high volume of potential consumers mean that the efforts could pay huge dividends, Ruiz said. Plus, as the economic positions of these locations and individuals improve over time, AMD will be the brand they know and trust, he said.

The WCIT is an opportunity for delegates to vote on policies that will dictate the tech industry's role in the global community. The issues discussed Wednesday revolved around creating greater digital access for developing countries, improving health care with technology and debating the appropriate balance between privacy and security.

In a study commissioned by Unisys Federal Systems, 67 percent of people surveyed said they were ready for biometric data to be used in the United States and 71 percent were ready for a single, multipurpose card for identity purposes, said Greg Baroni, Unisys Global Sector's president.

Biometrics include fingerprints, face recognition and iris scans as methods of more secure identification. Baroni cited technology used by 19 million people in Malaysia, in which a "smart" card is the individual's national ID card, driver's license, toll card and passport. In the country, specific biometric identifiers carry the person's medical record and personal information at all times.

"We must redefine security," Baroni said. People want this technology, they just need to be shown that they can trust the IT industry to keep their information safe, he said.

Ballmer said health care is likely to be the area most impacted by new technology. Technology can bring the expertise of doctors and nurses from the cities into rural and distant parts of a country. The financial feasibility of paper records and tests is becoming less efficient, and everything is moving into digital formats, he said.

Ballmer said the advances in technology are pointless if the IT community can't ensure the safety of children. He spoke about Microsoft's work with law enforcement agencies, in which agents were trained on methods of detecting and, more importantly, tracking down child predators, he said.

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