Image: Barrett
Michael Probst  /  AP
Intel Chairman Craig Barrett gestures during an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Saturday.
updated 1/27/2007 5:18:07 PM ET 2007-01-27T22:18:07

New technologies are ready to be used to advance health care, while a plan to bring computers and fast Internet access to the developing world is being undertaken, the chairman of Intel Corp. said in an interview Saturday.

Craig Barrett said that using technological innovation to keep track of medical records in the health care industry was the next logical step, emphasizing the immediate modernizing effect for a traditionally paper-based system.

“When you go to a doctor’s office, the first thing you see is rows of filing cabinets,” he said. They could easily be digitized and made portable so that a person could literally carry their medical history on a USB flash drive, Barrett said.

Looking at the nature of computer chips, he said that as they become faster, eventually they will be limited by their size, despite how tiny they become.

His comments came after both his company and rival International Business Machines Corp. separately announced Saturday that they had solved a puzzle perplexing the semiconductor industry about how to reduce energy loss in microchip transistors as the technology shrinks to the atomic scale.

Intel and IBM said they’ve devised a way to replace problematic but vital materials in the transistors of computer chips that have begun leaking too much electric current as the circuitry on those chips gets smaller.

Technology experts said it’s the most dramatic overhaul of transistor technology for computer chips since the 1960s and is crucial in allowing semiconductor companies to continue making ever-smaller devices that are also energy-efficient.

Limits are approaching
Companies are feverishly trying to discover new ways to adhere to Moore’s Law, the 1965 prediction by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a chip should double about every two years.

Barrett said that despite that law, “we are getting to the fundamental physical limitations” of the architecture of current chips.

In the spirit of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, which has focused on bringing the fruits of technology to the developing world, he said a recent trek to countries like Egypt, Chile, Peru, South Africa and China, among others, showed that there is a need for cheap access to computers and the Internet.

“It’s a little bit like the education initiatives,” said Barrett, who chairs the U.N. Global Alliance for ICT and Development. “Education is the key.”

Improving education
Part of that effort, at least for Intel, is the deployment of programs focused on improving education and speeding up the availability of cheap access to computers and the Internet.

The company has said it plans to train some 4.7 million teachers by 2011 in China, India, Egypt, Latin America, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, through its Intel Teach program.

Intel also plans to donate more than 36,000 computers with Internet connectivity to the education ministries in Brazil, Chile, China, India and South Africa.

“You need inexpensive PCs, you need connectivity and local content,” Barrett said on how to make the improvements work.

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