Bill Clinton Discusses IT as Key Driver of Growth

By Michael Vizard

Given the direct correlation between availability to high-speed network bandwidth and national prosperity, universal broadband access should influence how people vote more than any other political and economic issue, says former President Bill Clinton.

Speaking at a China Leadership Summit in Beijing hosted this week by SAP, Clinton says investments in network bandwidth not only lead to innovations that drive economic growth, but they create interdependencies between nations that ultimately reduce instability and conflict.

“If I could wave a magic wand today I would make sure everyone has universal rapid broadband access,” says Clinton. “People should be voting for the people that will put the political and economic policies in place to make that happen.”

Clinton contends universal access to high-speed broadband raises education levels across any given community, which in turn creates the skills needed to drive innovation and prosperity. And technologies such as big data and cloud computing, for example, will play a huge role in lowering the cost of health-care across the globe, he says.

At the same time, Clinton concedes that while IT is helping drive massive gains in productivity, those gains are not leading to a corresponding increase in the size of the middle class. The end result is an increase in overall wealth, but not a similar increase in overall employment.

Clinton expects a new generation of digital Millennials to help solve today’s issues by increasingly cooperating across national, ethnic and religious boundaries and to also drive the next wave of economic growth. Clinton argues that ubiquitous access to high-speed network bandwidth will provide the foundation for ultimately evening out the distribution of wealth across the globe.

Needed: Public and Private Investments

To make that vision a reality, SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott says a fair amount of public and private investments will be required.

“If you incentivize businesses to behave a certain way using credits and tax breaks, they will do what is in their own best interest,” says McDermott. “But you definitely need the private sector to actually get it done.”

A good example of that kind of cooperative effort has been the development of global positioning system (GPS). A technology originally funded by the U.S. government, GPS is now fueling a major growth in the use of mobile computing devices, all of which depend on GPS to deliver location-based services.

Information technology, as it is being globally applied today, represents nothing less than the manifestation of a new era in the history of humankind, says Clinton.

“This is the most interdependent age in human history,” says Clinton. “We can’t divorce ourselves from the rest of the world. Divorce is no longer even an option.”

About the Author

Michael Vizard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight.

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