LAS VEGAS, January 11, 2013 - Taking the stage here at the Consumer Electronics Show, former President Bill Clinton returned to a theme that he pioneered in the Oval Office: technology has the power to accelerate economic development and improve people's lives.
Whether through high-bandwidth capabilities of fiber-optic wires, or through putting cell phones into the hand of the world's poorest, internet connectivity has significant positive effects, said the former president.
"I have always been fascinated by the role of technology in human history," Clinton said, during his 25-minute speech-within-a-speech on Wednesday by Samsung CEO Kwon Oh Hyun. "When I became president, the internet was just beginning to boom," and did so for the rest of the 1990s, Clinton said. He said that more than 25 percent of income growth owed to the internet.
"I did what I could do to keep the intent free, for speech and for commerce, and to symbolize things," including engaging in online town hall conversations, he said.
As he had done in the 1990s as president, during his State of the Union addresses, Clinton used the bully-pulpit here in Las Vegas to highlight the need for higher broadband speeds and the role of internet applications like electronic medical records.
The bulk of his remarks focused on how cellular technology is transforming the developing world, from South Asia to Haiti. "Each 10 percent increase in cell phone penetration adds 6/10 of a percent to [the Gross Domestic Product]."
One aspect of the William J. Clinton Foundation is to promote economic development. His foundation has worked with the Korean tech giant, now the world's leading smartphone manufacturer.
According to an analysis of State of the Union addresses conducted following his term of office, Bill Clinton used the word "technology" 41 times in his eight addresses, mentioning the word "internet" 18 times. The number of his mentions far exceeded those of his Republican predecessor or successor.
Clinton also addressed the speed of broadband downloads in the United States, comparing it unfavorably to South Korea.
"South Korea is now number one in computer download speeds, and we have fallen to 15th. Our speeds are about one-quarter of theirs," Clinton said.
Cautioning that those numbers can be misleading, he noted that the U.S. "is a big country, and in several places, we are highly competitive."
"We need to see the internet as part of our global commitment to infrastructure and I hope there will be an infrastructure bank set up in the U.S. this year, and I hope part of its commitment will be to guarantee universal broadband access at competitive speeds."
The theme for the June 2013 Broadband Breakfast Club is "Mobile Broadband: Commerce and Development in the Developing World." Register now for this event at http://broadbandbreakfastjune2013.eventbrite.com. To watch the video of Clinton's address at CES, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=233sz5eXr3s&list=UUbR6jJpva9VIIAHTse4C3hw
Follow Broadband Breakfast’s coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show at http://twitter.com/broadbandcensus. Our goals for #CES2013 are to promote the upcoming series of Broadband Breakfast Club events; to get the latest information on how broadband is driving digital technologies in 2013; and to test ideas for a book on technology, broadband, and digital media that Broadband Breakfast’s Publisher Drew Clark plan to write in 2013. He is on Google+ and Twitter.