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Gore: Wireless access to info means power

Al Gore's address at CTIA 2009 covers many of his usual themes regarding the need for environmental change, but it also provides a history lesson on communications.

LAS VEGAS--Former Vice President Al Gore sought to link the democratic effects of information sharing with the growth of the wireless industry as the solution to all of life's problems.

Well, perhaps not all of life's problems. But in his address to CTIA 2009 attendees on the final day of the show, Gore made the case that previous revolutions in communications technology--such as the printing press and the radio--have dramatically improved access to information that has made the world more scientifically advanced and productive, and that modern wireless technology is capable of doing the same thing over time.

Former Vice President Al Gore also gave a keynote address at the Web 2.0 Summit in November. Dan Farber/CNET

"Information is the dominant strategic resource of the economy in the 21st century," Gore said, drawing an analogy to the 1970s and the strain put on the economy by the dramatic rise in the price of oil. Information, on the other hand, has become cheaper and cheaper, with advances in processing power and wireless networking saving businesses untold amounts of money and giving average people a wealth of information at their fingertips.

Gore's hour-long speech touched on many of his usual themes about the environment, which won him the Nobel Prize in 2007. He also called on attendees to focus less on short-term business concerns and more on making the kinds of investments that will pay off in the long run at the expense of a short-term hit, such as adopting energy-efficient technologies.

Wireless technologies can be used to help monitor the health of the planet, he said, pointing to disappearing polar ice caps and rising temperatures. He also made sure to make several references to how wireless devices--namely the iPhone, produced by the company he oversees as a member of Apple's board of directors--have transformed the political process, allowing President Obama to tap a decentralized network of contributors to his successful campaign last year.

Gore's speech was originally supposed to be closed to the press, but he apparently changed his mind a few weeks ago. He did not allow photographs to be taken at the event, however.

Gore also declined to take any questions or address mounting concerns surrounding two journalists for his Current TV venture. American reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee are being detained in North Korea and are set to be tried for allegedly conspiring to perpetrate hostile acts against the Communist state.