- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2000

Technology has boosted the U.S. economy and helped reduce the jobless rate, but more U.S. workers fear losing their jobs now than during the 1991 recession because they believe technology will eliminate their jobs, Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday.

Mr. Greenspan and a slew of technology and education leaders joined President Clinton in the East Room of the White House to talk about hurdles preventing people in the United States and abroad from benefiting from the new economy the period of innovation driven by technology.

Microsoft Corp. co-founder and Chairman Bill Gates, who met with the president privately yesterday, also joined the discussion about the so-called global divide.

Trevor Neilson, spokesman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic fund, said the president and Mr. Gates didn't talk about the lawsuit or Monday's ruling that Microsoft violated federal antitrust law during their brief meeting.

Mr. Greenspan urged the president and Congress to improve the U.S. education system so workers can improve skills and participate in the new economy.

"We must ensure that our whole population receives an education that will allow full and continuing participation in this dynamic period of American economic history," he said.

National Education Foundation President Robert Chase said the lack of education is a global problem preventing people in underdeveloped countries from enjoying the prosperity generated by the new economy.

An estimated 125 million children worldwide do not attend school, Mr. Chase said, and educating them could cost up to $8 billion a year over 10 years.

"Where there are schools, too many lack essentials from books to maps and computers," he said.

That's where the goals of U.S. policy-makers differ from more urgent global needs, World Bank President James Wolfensohn said.

"When Alan Greenspan was talking about the inadequacy of a high school education in this country and the need for continuing education at community colleges, that is a fantastic dream. But our dream in so many parts of the world is to get primary education. The further dream is to get secondary education," he said.

But with an estimated 3 billion of the world's 6 billion people living on less than $2 a day, Mr. Wolfensohn said, poverty represents as great a problem.

It's worse in India, said Mirai Chatterjee, president of the Self-Employed Women's Association of India.

Sitting next to Mr. Gates, the richest man in the world, she said some Indian women earn an average of 40 cents a day.

She met Mr. Clinton on his trip to India last week and was invited to sit on the panel.

Despite the hurdles, Mr. Clinton said technological advances offer the United States and undeveloped areas of the world a chance to overcome problems and benefit in the prosperity of the new economy.

"I believe the computer and the Internet give us a chance to move more people out of poverty more quickly than at any time in all of human history," he said.

Mr. Gates agreed.

"We're at the beginning of what the computer can do to change our lives. The best is yet to come," he said.

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