As America enters the 21st Century, we are simultaneously confronted with great opportunities and formidable challenges. We should not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the degree and complexity of the challenges. Nor should we be seduced by the hype often associated with the opportunities. As with other grand transformations that have shaken our nation, the transformation from an industrial to information age will test our character, unity and national will.
A fundamental change is occurring in how human beings organize work and economic activity, driven only in part by developments in information technology (IT). Information, knowledge and other "intangibles" dominate business and commerce, both as inputs to the production process and as end products in and of themselves. In this new era, social capital and intellectual capital play roles as important as financial capital in commerce and society. With this in mind, Athena Alliance hosted a conference ("New IT -- New Equity -- New Economy") to explore the issues involving those left behind in the new information age. The discussion at that conference -- and subsequent events -- leads5 to a straightforward conclusion: it is time to broaden the debate. We must move from "divide" to "inclusion" as the central organizing principle of our analysis and actions. In other words, we must move the debate from access to the Internet -- the original definition of the digital divide -- to inclusion in the information economy. The issue is not simply the utilization of IT. Our task is to develop a more encompassing description of the technological, economic and social aspects of the revolution in IT and the rise of a new economy.