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CTIA's Ex-Presidents Society

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
3/29/2007

ORLANDO, Fla. -- CTIA Wireless -- The closing morning of the mobile show saw former U.S. President Bill Clinton laying out ways that wireless and IT in general can be used to improve the lot of the less fortunate around the world.

Clinton took the podium at the Orange County conference center in Florida after the 41st president of the U.S.A., George H.W. Bush. Both men talked up the benefits of cooperation and the way that wireless technologies can facilitate that. The former political rivals have been seen many times in public since working together on raising money and other aid for the victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricance Katrina.

"He and I are trying to send out a message that there are things greater than individual politics," Bush told the crowd.

But whereas Bush talked about wireless in more general terms, wisecracked about his age, and copped to a BlackBerry addiction, Clinton went into some detail about how wireless can be used to improve people's lives in countries like Bangladesh.

"The fastest growing group of loans to Bangladeshi women is so they can buy cellphones, and then they can turn around and sell call-time to friends and family," Clinton says.

He also stressed how wireless can help bring aid to people where it would have been very difficult to operate before. Specifically, trying to build a healthcare network in Rwanda; a country that doesn't have a reliable electricity supply or any real telecommunications infrastructure.

"We couldn't function out there without cellphones and solar panels," Clinton told his audience.

The ex-president's point was that -- in the "interdependent" 21st century -- where half the world still subsists on less than two dollars a day, technology can function as a uniting force, or a dividing one. The same technology that be used to make people's lives better can also be used by terrorists to facilitate their aims.

Wireless can be used to "build a world with fewer terrorists and more partners," Clinton opined. "Look for little ways that everyone of us -- through technology -- can bring people together."

Clinton's serious edge was something of a contrast to George H.W. Bush's more jovial tone. Although the 83-year old former president did say that the overall tech industry has had a hand in bringing more liberty to countries like China than existed in previous years. Even if it is in small incremental steps.

"There is more democracy and there is more freedom today," Bush said.

As Clinton noted though, Bush generally handled the jokes, often at his own expense. "Even after 14 years people will still remember if you throw up on the prime minster of Japan," the elder Bush quipped in his closing remarks.

"It is my fate to spend the rest of my natural life as his straight man," said Clinton ruefully.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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