Barrett says time is right to close digital divide

Craig Barrett spent decades using his business skills to make Intel the world's most powerful semiconductor company. He has now turned his attention to an even bigger challenge -- spreading computers and education throughout the developing world.

The Intel chairman, who gave up his CEO title in 2005, was at the Consumer Electronics Show last week to launch the , which encourages individuals to take small steps to help bring relief to the world's poorest countries.

The challenge seeks donations to Save The Children's Rewrite the Future program, which provides education for children in war-torn countries. And Intel will donate US$0.05 for each person who simply visits the Web site, up to a maximum $300 million this year.

But for Barrett it's about more than charity. Visitors to the site can also make a "micro loan" to a local entrepreneur through , which displays profiles of people seeking funds to grow their business -- a plumber in Uganda who needs supplies to open a hardware store, for example. It delivers the loans through a local partner and aims to repay them after six to 12 months.

Barrett sat down with IDG News Service at CES to talk about the effort to raise living standards in developing countries, as well as Intel's Classmate PC and whether he misses his day-to-day role managing Intel. Following is an edited transcript of the discussion.

IDG News Service: We've been hearing about efforts to close the digital divide for several years now, but the progress often seems frustratingly slow. You seem to think we're at some sort of tipping point. What makes you so optimistic?