Clinton calls for more government spending on IT at Oracle conference

NEW ORLEANS -- Former president Bill Clinton, in a keynote speech at a conference for users of Oracle Corp.'s business applications, yesterday issued a call for increased government spending on IT and asked technology managers to work to bridge the "digital divide" that exists between the rich and the poor.

Weaving politics into his speech on the opening day of the Oracle-sponsored Oracle AppsWorld conference, Clinton reiterated his belief that the government has a greater role to play in encouraging the growth of technology.

Citing the success of the Internet, which was created with the help of federal money, Clinton called for "dramatic" increases in the research-and-development funding that's provided by the U.S. government. More could also be done to help train American workers to fill available high-tech jobs, Clinton said.

While Clinton said the Internet shows huge promise for e-commerce and education uses, he added that an online divide is emerging between the technological haves and have-nots. In the U.S., he claimed, white students are twice as likely to have PCs in their homes as black students are. If left unchanged, Clinton said, the situation will have "enormous economic and political implications for stability and peace."

Clinton closed his remarks by urging IT managers at the conference to "do good and do well," saying that helping to close the digital divide will create potential new customers for many companies.

The former president's speech was relevant and had "a lot of political inferences," said Rakesh Ramachandran, IT director at a biotechnology company. Ramachandran, who asked that his company not be identified, said he agreed that Third World countries present great opportunities for revenue growth "if we hit the right people there."

The notion of using the Web to let poorer countries accelerate their development "is a powerful idea" that should present broader marketing opportunities for businesses such as high-tech companies, said Vytas Kiselius, president of Adeptra Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

Adeptra makes Oracle-based software that lets companies send interactive audio and text data to customers via PCs, cell phones and other devices. Clinton's comments about bridging the digital divide were "common sense," Kiselius said. "For the market to continue to expand, we need new markets," he added.

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