John Davies visits GISB; discusses technology and social initiatives

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Grameen Intel CEO Kazi I. Huque and Intel Corporation VP John Davies addressing the guests at the GISB office in Mohakhali, Dhaka, on September 15, 2012.

In the presence of guests, (GISB CEO) Kazi I. Huque and (GISB Board Member and Intel VP) John Davies took the opportunity to remark on GISB’s journey thus far and the impact of technology in the areas of eAgro, healthcare and education.

The Independent (newspaper) followed up the event with a one-on-one intverview with Davies, wherein he discussed technology, social issues, and Intel’s plans on helping make the world better.

Bangladesh needs optimum technologies to grasp more Intel opportunities and expertise

John E. Davies, Vice-President of Intel’s World Ahead Programme, speaks to Faizul Khan Tanim of The Independent, on a positive note that Intel only hires good people

John E. Davies is the Vice-President of the World Ahead Programme at the corporation’s Sales and Marketing Group. This week, he came to Bangladesh to launch the initiative of Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd, where he is working as a board member. As we know that the hardware giant, Intel, makes 21st century technologies which are becoming more affordable and accessible for millions of people worldwide. Through hands-on collaboration with governments, telecommunications providers, technology companies, and other organisations, Intel World Ahead increases access to digital devices, the Internet, and local content. Working together with partners, they develop long-term approaches that strengthen communities and encourage sustainable social and economic development.

Davies is focused on creating demand for Intel platforms via Solutions, new usage models, and ecosystem scaling. His mandate is to bring the benefits of technology to the next billion people by working with the industry, governments and development agencies. The exclusive interview as follows:

Faizul Khan Tanim (FKT): Due to the IT revolution, increased teledensity in Bangladesh, does Intel have plans in Bangladesh focusing on these resources?
John E. Davies (JD): The next major developments and revolution in internet and broadband connectivity will have to be low-cost computers and a change in business model to prepaid broadband. The impact of pre-paid broadband will have to increase and so is its penetration, similar to pre-paid mobile phone services. We are working on it mainly with the 4G sectors worldwide at present. So, once Bangladesh has the 3G license out and the optimum technology running, there will be more opportunities with our equipment and expertise. We already have mobile phone products built almost exactly to the specifications of Intel’s reference design and most of them Androids, released as LePhone in China and Xolo in India. We don’t have this in Bangladesh yet but one day you might and can look forward to it.

FKT: We can see that desktops and laptops are having fierce competition with the advent of handheld devices like tablet PC’s and cell phones. How are you looking at this evolution?
JD: We have to concentrate on all of them – PC’s, Tablets, mobile phones – It’s the different usage and models coming along and we have to keep track. We have to be in all of them and the software that runs in all the devices. So that’s what we are driving from the developers’ point of view, software which runs in all of them. These devices all have their individual usage requirements according to time and place. So the challenge is to bring harmony in the looks of how all these separate devices work. It would be much nicer that way if the usability of these separate devices can compliment each other.

FKT: Does Intel support open source programmes or software?
JD: We support, but mainly we do work for Microsoft because that is what the customers want. And there is Intel inside Mac’s and our cell phones are androids. So, we do support a lot of programmes indeed.

FKT: Does Intel have plans on offering Internships for our IT students?
JD: Well, if we have a large infrastructure here one day, we will have that. Right now, we have few options with Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd although. Opportunities will grow big when we do over here.

FKT: We know that there is a lot of Bangladeshi workforce at Intel in the United States. How is their performance?
JD: It’s really good because we only hire good people. We have a lot of choice but our motive is to hire good quality people. And the fact that we have people working for us from many different countries because they not only tell us what they need but as well help their countries a little bit. They help us with volunteerism and constructive penetration in their own countries and this is a great way of Intel employees to positively contribute to countries where they were
born.

FKT: While his visit in Bangladesh in 2007, the then Intel’s CEO Craig Barrett created a huge buzz and spoke about plenty of possibilities. But we did not see much significant changes, Why is that? For example, how far have the Intel Teach and Intel Learn programmes progressed? Is it because that we missed to get exact information from the Intel’s public relations department?
JD: I was at a college this morning to see the on-going progress of Intel Teach and Learn and saw remarkable results while giving awards to the teachers. The reason why these projects have not excelled fast is because not every teacher is equipped with a computer. And our job becomes easier when teachers of a specific college tells his other professional friends that I have worked in this project, love and have learned a lot and to convey the message that these programmes or projects has made their life easier. I was heavily excited to hear about their personal success stories. If you were in that audience, you would have loved every bit of it.

FKT: Does Intel have any plans with setting up R&D, infrastructural development or hardware manufacturing plant investments here?
JD: We only have these in six or seven countries in the world and the last time we decided on developing a hardware manufacturing plant was in the 90’s and more than 10 years ago and we have to look in to a lot of parameters, factors, planning and resources before starting such enormous ventures. But saying that, what we have here is the Grameen Intel Social Business structure where engineers are helping with farming, agriculture and a lot of other areas. We are also working on solar power initiatives to meet the power challenges in Bangladesh along with our education and health programmes. So, there are a lot of projects that we have started over here in Bangladesh first.

FKT: How far is Intel with the plans of developing low-cost computers or the 100$ laptops?
JD: The 100 dollar laptops were never a 100 one but what it did was give people the inspiration to work harder and try lowering the price. We are looking at making laptops cheaper. We are looking at very interesting educational laptops and we are quite happy with what is going to come. The challenge was to make improvements and it’s the improvements, whether good enough, which always worries me. But we have some good products in the pipeline and they are coming soon.

FKT: Will there be any special prices for Intel devices here? For example, the motherboards are of top quality but at the same time, extremely pricey for our people.  
JD: It is very difficult to sell one of our products cheaper in a country when the company is multinational and has customers all over the world. We will talk about this next time when we come.

The interview was published on September 19, 2012 at The Independent.