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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 11:47 GMT
Bridging Africa's digital divide
Craig Barrett
Intel chairman Craig Barrett is on a tour of Africa
Intel's chairman Craig Barrett is in Africa to talk about initiatives designed to end the digital divide. He tells BBC News of the challenges the continent faces as it attempts to reap the benefits of the technological revolution.

We have a saying in our company: PCs aren't magic, teachers are magic.

When we go into schools and focus on education and technology - our primary focus is on training the teachers how to effectively use the technology. So far we've help train between four and a half and five million teachers around the world.

It's not just bringing the technology to the classroom.

If you train teachers effectively in how to use the technology and how to use it in the classroom to make it more interesting more exciting, to teach young people how to solve problems.

If technology can help do that, that's great. But if I were given the choice of being able to train and certify teachers as opposed to just bringing in technology to the classroom, I would pick training.

Let's get heavily qualified teachers into the classroom. That will do more than any piece of hardware or software or connection to the internet.

In Africa it is not a choice between clean water and broadband. You can do more than one thing at a time

It's wonderful to have connection to internet, to have access to world's body of education.

But the teachers are the real magic in the classroom.

I'm only sorry we are not able to do more as an individual company. I would like to run our teacher training in every country. I would like to be involved in computer labs in every school.

Finite resources

But there is a finite amount of energy and resources we can put into these activities. There is so much that could be done.

I certainly hope that Africa will not just reach the Millennium Development Goals for access to technology but comprehensively beat them.

But it's not an issue of technology. It's not an issue of what solution do you bring.

If Africa leadership can agree on a common set of priorities I believe they can move very rapidly

It's an issue of getting people aligned, different agendas and priorities on the same page. Getting all the African countries aligned saying, 'Yes, we need these infrastructures in place'. Saying yes to getting a submarine cable in place to getting broadband infrastructure that crosses national boundaries.

We're just starting to see the internet take off. But the lack of broadband capability is a real retarding force on the internet in Africa.

There is a hierarchy of issues. First you need to have international access - so that submarine cables, fibre - going from the African coast to the US, Europe and other countries.

The next step is going from those submarine cables to terrestrial cables to the major cities.

Beyond that you have to worry about connecting villages and individuals once you've got the fibres to the big cities.

Relatively slow

The challenges are a lack of submarine cables, there's no overarching strategy to have a fibre network throughout Africa. It's more a regional or country by country issue and that's been relatively slow.

If you look at what broadband or ITC in general can bring they are better education, better health care, economic development and a more transparent governance model.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I currently live in SA and internet access here is restrictive and costly
Ismail, Port Elizabeth, SA

Those are the four things you want in any country independent of the state of their local economy.

In Africa it is not a choice between clean water and broadband. You can do more than one thing at a time.

You don't want to give a society clean water but then say you can't have access to knowledge, education or economic development.

If you do that, you are sentencing the next generation to living in poverty.

This is a man made limitation in Africa. It's not a technology limitation that Africa faces.

If African leadership can agree on a common set of priorities I believe they can move very rapidly.

Governments can either facilitate or hold it back. I hope they move forward and work in concert to roll out the technology as widely as possible.


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