YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A former chairman and chief executive of Intel Corporation, the world’s largest maker of microprocessors, ended on Tuesday a first-ever trip to Armenia during which he was held up by President Serzh Sarkisian as a role model for local entrepreneurs.
Craig Barrett received on Monday an Armenian state award for what Sarkisian’s office described as his “contribution of global significance” to the development of information technology, or IT, around the world.
“This Award is Armenia’s modest contribution to the global development of information technologies,” Sarkisian said at a high-profile ceremony at the presidential palace in Yerevan. He expressed hope that it will also “attract attention of the Armenian youth toward information technologies.”
“We will encourage their studies and work in this area, we will search for and find new ways and means to do it,” he said.
Sarkisian also paid tribute to Barrett’s advocacy of knowledge-based economics. “This is my idea of the modern businessman,” he declared. “I want the businessmen of Armenia to reckon about this example. I want all our entrepreneurs to be like that.”
“It’s not about benevolence,” continued the Armenian president. “It is about the ability to assume responsibility, about the ability to refrain from short-lived and momentary profit if in the long run it can jeopardize the well-being of the society. It is about not surrendering to the temptations of big money – greed and arrogance.”
Speaking at a news conference the next day, Barrett emphasized the importance of good education for the development of IT in Armenia declared a top economic priority by the current and previous Armenian governments. “Computers are not magic in the classroom,” he said. “Teachers are magic in the classroom.”
“I think obviously there is the opportunity to grow the IT industry on the basis of the educational background,” Barrett said when asked about the future of the Armenian IT sector.
The sector’s expansion continues to be seriously hampered by declining educational standards and the still inadequate quality of Internet connection in the country. Local IT executives say the Armenian authorities have not done enough to address these problems.
While in Yerevan, Barrett met with Armenian IT executives and visited the Armenian branch of Synopsis Inc., a California-based manufacturer of software for semiconductor design. He also had a separate meeting with computer science students at the State Engineering University of Armenia. “I found the students very bright, very aggressive, very attentive,” he told journalists.
The former Intel chief described as “very refreshing” his conversations with Sarkisian and other senior Armenian officials. As far as IT is concerned, they are all “speaking the same language,” he said.