Economics and the Digital Divide

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 5, 2000 — Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates today participated in The New Economy Summit, an economic forum hosted by President Clinton at the White House. The summit featured three panels of discussion on the maintenance of what is currently the longest economic expansion in history, the role of information technology in today’s economy, and how technology can be used to improve peoples’ lives.

“The performance of the new economy has been powered by technology, driven by ideas, rooted in innovation and enterprise. It has opened doors of opportunity and challenged our very understanding of economics,” said President Clinton. “From small businesses to factory floors to villages half a world away, the information revolution is changing the way people work, learn, live, relate to each other in the rest of the world.”

Following an introduction by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Gates opened a panel discussion on the topic “Closing the Global Divide: Health, Education, and Technology.” The other panelists who spoke on this issue were Amartya Sen, a professor at Cambridge Univ and Nobel Prize winner; Jim Wolfensohn, president of World Bank, Marai Chatterjee, director of the Southeast Women’s Organization in India, and Henry Cisneros, CEO of Univision. The audience consisted of economists, Wall Street analysts, and key business leaders.

“The pace of technological change and the indispensable nature of its contribution to 21 st century prosperity have changed our lives and the lives of people around the globe,” Gates said. “They are so critical that they impose upon us an obligation to work together to ensure that the incredible potential of new technology embraces everyone.”

On of the biggest breakthroughs in technology, Gates noted, will result from the mapping and understanding of the human genome — figuring out the exact sequence of the 3 billion nucleotides that make up the estimated 100,000 genes that are the collective blueprint for human beings. “Thanks to the Internet, computers and specialized technology, researchers around the world are working at a much faster collective pace,” he said.

“We can’t be satisfied until the computers in inner city classrooms equal the computers in suburban classrooms, until the vaccinations children get in Ghana equal the vaccinations children get in Baltimore, until every citizen can participate equally in the advances the Internet will bring to democracy,” Gates said.

While in Washington for the White House event, Gates will also meet with Republican and Democratic members of Congress to discuss ways to improve access to technology and economic opportunity, and other issues important to the high-tech industry, both in the United States and around the world.

“These are amazing times. And I am proud and grateful to have the chance to be a part of the technology revolution at the heart of so much of the progress we are making. The scope of change — economic, social, and cultural — is awe-inspiring,” Gates said. “Because technology has the power to make such a positive difference in people’s lives, we have a simple obligation: spread it.”

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