LIVE FROM CES 2013: Former US president Bill Clinton was the star attraction at the Samsung keynote this morning, sharing his vision of how technology can play a key role in addressing the world’s problems.
The 42nd US President – an ambassador for Samsung’s ‘Hope for Children’ charity – quipped that when he first took office the average mobile phone weighed five pounds and there were “only 50 sites on the Internet.”
But he warned that the US had recently slipped to number 15 in the world in terms of Internet download speeds, a long way behind the global leader, South Korea (Samsung’s home market).
“Our speeds are one-fourth that of Korea,” he warned. “We need to see the Internet as part of our commitment to infrastructure.”
His main message concerned taking technology to the developing world. “The world has huge challenges, which I think technology can help to overcome,” he said.
He cited recent World Bank research that highlighted the positive impact on GDP triggered by rising mobile penetration – and also the work done in disaster zones by operators such as Digicel in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti three years ago.
The second half of Clinton’s address was politically charged as he took swipes at the powerful US gun lobby and those that continue to dispute climate change.
In light of the recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Clinton said that lawmakers were guilty of an “unjustifiable neglect of gun safety,” notably by allowing the ban on assault weapons to lapse.
“Why does anyone need to carry one of these things that has 100 bullets?” he asked. “I grew up in a hunting culture, but this is nuts.”
On climate change, he said he hoped deniers had been “quieted” by news that the US had just recorded its hottest year on record.