Former U.S. president Bill Clinton used the opening keynote at Oracle AppsWorld in New Orleans last month to urge companies to use technology to empower the less fortunate.
Clinton noted that one computer can be a more effective educational tool than 10 out-of-date textbooks. He said while visiting India, he watched a woman with a newborn in her arms walk into the village health centre and receive pages of top-notch post-natal care advice via the Web.
He pointed out that this type of information simply wouldn’t be available to the village – which had an annual income of US$450 – if it were not for technology.
“We have to…close the digital divide between us and the world,” Clinton said. “We cannot be heedless of the gripping challenges for people here and around the world.”
We need to empower the people “who have been left behind,” he stressed. “I think it’s insulting to the poor to say you have to choose between penicillin and Pentium.”
Larry Ellison, president and CEO of Oracle, introduced Clinton and stated that he was one of the American leaders who had worked through adversity for change, citing his support of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) as one of those challenges.
Clinton noted that some had been opposed to NAFTA because it might mean jobs would open up in places other than the U.S. He admitted jobs were created in Mexico but stated that the U.S. lost nothing. Clinton also mentioned that within a few years of NAFTA, Mexico underwent political upheaval to bring in a more democratic form of government. “I am glad that (U.S. president George W. Bush’s) first trip beyond our borders was to our neighbours in Mexico,” he said.
Clinton called on technology companies to further Internet penetration in all areas of the globe. He also urged the U.S. government to take more interest and invest more in their technology research.