The last time former US President Bill Clinton spoke at an event I was attending, it was RSA 2011 in San Francisco and press were not permitted to enter the theatre.
This week I was in attendance at the Dell World conference in Austin, Texas, and Clinton joined founder and CEO Michael Dell in presenitng the opening keynote, and I am glad to say that this time I was allowed in to hear the two-term president.
Anyone who has attended one of Clinton's keynotes will be familiar with his talks on the work of the Clinton Global Foundation and his work around global poverty and the environment. I had also heard that he tends to avoid the subject matter of the conference to focus on that work, so I was a little impressed to hear him talk about technology, if only briefly, and in a context around the key theme of collaboration.
Michael Dell opened the keynote with customer deployment features and thoughts on the recent capabilities. He concluded by saying that he believes that technology 'can create great opportunities' and referenced its own Dell Centre for entrepreneurs, and the opportunities it offers to help with access to capital, to expertise and with 'solutions for business of all sizes to grow and help their customers'.
Passing the microphone to Clinton, the former President said that the Clinton Global Initiative had inspired nearly 1,200 young leaders who were taking steps to meet challenges, create jobs and power the economy forward.
He said: “Technology works a model for the challenges we face in the 21st century. It is hard to believe that we are coming up to the 20th anniversary of my inauguration. When I became President the average cellphone weighed five pounds, there were 50 websites on the entire internet, that many have been added since I began talking today.
“I sent two emails when I was president: one to the troops in the Balkans; and one to John Glenn who was in space. It was also noticed that almost all email was in-office traffic and the young people would often type before they thought and we had a hostile Congress who thought that their number one job was to subpoena every email sent, I did too and we read them. It is all different now, but it all fits into how the 21st century works and what I do now.”
Clinton also said that he 'loves open source and the internet' and its ability to make partnerships, and that users are not afraid to fail and try something else.
Elsewhere, Clinton said a few things that grabbed my attention and may (or may not) have been indirectly referenced to the issue of collaboration and perimeters, but his comment that 'all barriers end up looking like nets rather than walls' certainly reflected the issue of penetrated networks and de-perimeterisation.
He also made comments that 'we cannot shut each other out' and that 'everyone has an obligation to try to build a positive and reduce the forces of global dependence'.
The work Clinton is doing both in and out of the USA is really making a difference, and it great that he is given the opportunities to speak at conferences such as this one. What was interesting to me was the changes in technology since his inauguration in 1993. I am not sure if his checking every email was actually done by him personally, but it does seem to be an early form of employee monitoring technology!
He later said that there is a 'need to build ever inclusive communities' to harness the 'power of creative cooperation' and concluded by saying that the USA was in danger of falling behind other nations when it came to broadband speed.
You could argue that Clinton came from a different age to what we are in now, and his time in the White House was ahead of the new millennium and all that it has brought in technology. However he does make the right noises about collective thinking and working and as he was in the White House as technology boomed in the 1990s, I doubt much of what he said was accidental.