Remarks by Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft Corporation
“Egypt, The Next Wave: Innovation and Impact”
American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt
October 19, 2006
STEVE BALLMER: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor to be here with you tonight. I have to admit, as I got off the plane last night, coming from Paris, I knew it was Ramadan. I did not know that I had the toughest stage in town tonight though, a Thursday night, a holy night, and Ramadan, so I want to give you a special thanks for being here. I also didn’t know that my team decided I needed to be out till like 2:30 in the morning experiencing Ramadan in downtown Cairo, but the day has been so energetic that I will try to share some of that energy with you here tonight. I just wanted to let you know that with the food, I’m sure everybody’s minds are a little bit better. My mind was good enough to notice one small fact that Karim went through; he said he was only expecting 200 people here tonight, but he carefully invited about 100 Microsoft people so he’d guarantee we’re here.
I want to start by sharing some of my reactions on my first trip here in Egypt. As Karim said, I have heard a lot about what we’re doing, I had some great meetings at our corporate headquarters with a group of gentlemen, many of them are ministers and prime ministers, over the last number of years. And certainly I have had a sense of the dynamic quality and nature of what’s happening in Egypt, but it really isn’t the same as coming and visiting and talking to customers, talking to business partners, press, government, and I certainly would leave with even more enthusiasm not only for what is possible for IT in Egypt, but what is happening in Egypt overall, the pace of economic and social development, the degree to which the government is really positively driving these things and frankly for me it is energizing and exciting.
I had a chance today to talk about a number of things. I heard about economic development, healthcare, education, social services, the transformation of government into e-government, and research – particularly in the context of the center that we started. And in all cases, I thought the work in all process about how information technology can be an enabler of those social and economic goals was really great.
We do say that out mission as a company is to enable people and businesses to realize their full potential. That is our second mission statement in our 30 years of existence. Our first mission statement was to put a computer on every desk and in every home. We don’t have computers on every desk and in every home, but with some of the good work we are getting here, we are getting there, step-by-step closer, and I am excited about that. But after 20 years of being on that mission, we had to ask ourselves what is about that mission that represents the real value? And the real value of a PC on every desk and in every home, the real value of information technology, is what it does to enable people to do things they never dream were possible, to communicate in new ways with new people, something we talked about with the First Lady this morning in the context of peace and world community and breaking down walls, to enable people to be productive at work in ways they never thought were possible, to get unique insights, to be able to do their jobs at a much higher level of performance, a key aspect of what we talked about in terms of government process and what’s going on for economic development and business productivity.
The computer and IT are also key enablers of human creativity. Expression, entertainment, media are being transformed and shared more broadly – in ways people couldn’t have ever dreamed about – because the power of IT. As we look out, and we have many brilliant people doing this, and say what would the next five, 10, 15 years look like? I guarantee you one thing, when we are sitting together at the AmCham meeting in the year 2016 – hopefully not on one of the nights of Ramadan when people are hungry – we will look back and say that this decade was perhaps the most exciting in the history of IT industry. That may sound like just a bunch of words, but it is not. Ten years ago most people didn’t have PCs, didn’t have mobile phones, didn’t know what the Internet even was.
So when I say the next 10 years can be more exciting, I think that is actually a big statement. Ten years from now your computer will understand your voice, literally all kinds of human knowledge and communication will be available to you instantly on your computer, all digital. There will be new forms of entertainment and human interaction. You’ll be sitting there with your TV set, in my case I love golf, so I’ll be watching the match and I say, “Hey Bill, did you see Tiger make that move?” My television will wake up, figure out when I said Bill I meant Bill Gates, it will find him at his beach house, it will check to see whether he is willing to be interrupted by Steve, and of course he is always willing to be interrupted by Steve, even though Steve would be in his last year as Microsoft CEO, and Bill will still be part-time visionary, and all of a sudden on his TV, “Hey Bill, did you see Tiger make that move?” We might think that this is kind of silly and funny, but when we talk about the future of communications and entertainment, the future of society and social contact, that is part of what we’ll get.
I was sitting with the Minister of Health and we were talking about health care. Not just in Egypt, but everywhere in the world, information technology hasn’t really begun to scratch the surface of really improving the quality and reach of health care around the world. And it will make a big difference, we are talking a little bit specifically about radiology, a topic well known, and the transformation happening just in the way radiologists work because of software is really very profound.
And you can go on and on. I was in Italy, and I am sure the same thing we were talking, Dr. Kamel and I, about some of this earlier culture, as many tourists will ever come to Egypt, most of the world will never get here. So how do you digitize some how the amazing art, culture, history, and let people come to know Egypt and its culture and heritage, even if they can’t have the resources to come visit? The computer will enable that.
Many of you are business people, I bet at least once in the last month there was a piece of information that you wanted to do your job, you said, if I only had that information, I would make a better decision. And you were frustrated that you couldn’t get it even though it was locked up somewhere in the computer systems. Ten years from now, my belief is that you will not only find this information, you’ll be able to analyze it, manipulate it, and share it with others in some amazing ways.
So I am very excited, maybe too excited for the short time, and I know we are trying to have a quick program, but I am very excited about the future of information technology here in Egypt. I am not the most expert person in this room on Egypt, but that may give me a little bit of a unique perspective in some ways. If you think about technology talent per GDP dollar, I think Egypt would be an upper country. There is a lot of technology talent here, and I’d say certainly, there is no government I have ever met anywhere in the world where there is more focus on technology – both as a driver of economic growth and as an important supporter of improvement in government and social operation. And when you take that incredible base of talent, not only serving the Egyptian market, but I think increasingly being a source of export elsewhere in the Middle East, in Africa, and in the world, I think there is a very bright and exciting future for the Egyptian technology industry and for the Egyptian society.
So it has been my honor and privilege to have the chance to be here today to address you today. Enjoy the rest of Ramadan.