The newly-announced “Congo” microchip from AMD will reportedly be used to power laptops built by Hewlett-Packard. I conveyed my outrage to HP CEO Mark Hurd in the following letter:
June 9, 2009
Mr. Mark Hurd
Chief Executive Officer
3000 Hanover Street
Palo Alto, CA 94304-1185
Dear Mr. Hurd:
You may not realize it, but your company has decided to use a new AMD microchip that links your products to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. I’m referring to the recently announced “Congo” chip from AMD, which I understand is slated to be introduced in an HP laptop this year.
Nearly six million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1998 and the death toll continues to mount as fighting over the country’s mineral resources continues. Currently, more than a million Congolese have been driven from their homes and farms by the fighting in the Eastern provinces. It is estimated that 250,000 women have been brutally raped and mutilated by armed groups seeking to control communities where mines are located.
Among the prizes that fuel this conflict are gold, tungsten, coltan, and cassiterite. Coltan, as I’m sure you know, is a source of tantalum, a mineral used in the manufacture of capacitors widely used in many electronics including ultra-thin laptops like the ones destined to be powered by AMD’s “Congo” chips. Tin, a key material in the production of many electronic components, comes from cassiterite. Both ores are mined under horrific conditions in the DRC from deposits controlled by various militias and rebel groups. The Enough Project estimates that these groups generate some $144 million from the illicit trade in these and other minerals. Those profits buy weapons that have killed millions of people and threaten to destroy the nation known as “Congo.”
While the new AMD chip may not include these minerals, connecting the product to the conflict is an incredibly bad idea. Your statement of corporate responsibility reads in part:
“We fulfill our responsibility to society by being an economic, intellectual and social asset to each country and community where we do business.”
On behalf of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, I urge you to fulfill that promise and ask AMD to change this product name. I also call on you to commit to policing your supply chain to ensure that your company’s purchases do not contribute to the abuse and deaths of innocent people.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Author of Heart of Diamonds
This entire affair may seem like a small marketing faux pas, but the term “Congo chip” is already being used as a generic term and will evidently be adopted by other manufacturers to describe the technology. According to Brook Crothers of CNET:
Other vendors will follow with low-power dual-core Congo chips later this year, according to AMD. The new silicon will be used in 24 designs across 11 different PC makers–though AMD says this list is expected to grow.
What’s next in the totally tasteless world of technology marketing, “Holocaust” chips?
Yesterday, I provided a link to AMD. If you would like to email this letter (or your own thoughts) to HP CEO Mark Hurd, the company provides a convenient form for that purpose.