Former President Bill Clinton gave a keynote talk at the CTIA conference in New Orleans to a room full of mobile industry folks, where he sang his praises to the mobile phone industry for keeping us connected and told personal stories about how cell phones are being used as a force of social good in the developing world.
Clinton talked about how in his political career, fighting was inevitable. But he has since had a change of heart. His interest in genetics has guided him in understanding our need for cooperation. Clinton reminded the crowd that he did spend our tax dollars getting the human genome sequenced in 2000, knowing that its impact on human health would be huge. He was right, as our understanding of our DNA has helped us understand human disease better.
Clinton continued and said we all are part Neanderthal due to cross breeding with human ancestors, referring to scientific discoveries reported last year. He understands that fighting is a human need. But just because it works in politics, it doesn't mean it works for real-life, Clinton said.
"Here's what alarms me about the modern world. Nobody is right all the time. [We are rarely] right more than twice a day. All of us are condemned to live our lives and know that we are not right all the time. If your goal is to win a victory through a protracted conflict, what works in politics doesn't work in real-life," he said.
Clinton, who flew in last night from Central America, said that in the last 20 years, the region had 5 times as many hurricanes and 3 times as many floods.
The world we live in is unsustainable because the way we consume and produce energy more than natural resources. He talked about how the melting ice caps would affect our fresh water supply and climate.
However, Clinton said you do want some instability. Without it, there could be no market economy.
Cell phones are giving people access to information and business opportunities. Specifically in developing countries, people use their cell phones to access health information and use it for mobile payments.
During the keynote, Clinton talked about alternative economies and systems created by cell phones.
Clinton spent time in Haiti, noting that they had the opposite problem as the United States when it comes to housing. Loans weren't being handed out, so paying 100 percent up front made it difficult to build houses in Haiti. He said, 70 percent of Haitians were making less than $2 a day. Yet 80 percent of Haitians have access to a cell phone. His goal was to implement a system so that people could make transfers to each other without a bank account.
Also, cell phones also let people in Africa to text in medication they have to see if it is counterfeit. It created an alternative healthcare system to validate integrity of the drugs, he said.
"What happens in developed societies is that the systems that make societies great get too rigid," Clinton said. "It's as old as society itself and it's human nature. We have to be engaged in this process of reform. In 1999, for example, I signed a wireless association and public safety act. 911 is the universal emergency number. It helped reduce medical costs," he said.
"If you look at the United States, there are centers of prosperity in this country. If you just spent your time there, you'd be hard pressed to know that we are in a crisis. Without exception, there are places of creative collaborative networks -- Silicon Valley. Everyone said the tech bubble was a terrible thing. You are living proof that it wasn't. Between 1997 and 1999, information technology utilization increased by 500 percent a year. People made massive investments. So when the tech bubble burst, IT usage dropped from 500 percent a year increase to 50 percent a year increase," Clinton said.
Clinton stopped for a moment and light-heartedly touched on how the demographic in the mobile space of has changed: there aren't as many gray-haired, white men in the room here today. But he was still glad to see a few.
"What works in real-life are creative networks of co-operation. People who take advantage of their different knowledge, different experiences, different understandings, different philosophies and figure out how to move forward. If you think about it, you're creating more new networks of knowledge and co-operation than any single development in human history," Clinton said.