"In the long run," says MIT economist Paul Krugman, "improvements in technology are good for almost everyone. Unfortunately, what is true in the long run need not be true over shorter periods."104 We are now, he believes, living through one of those difficult periods in which technology doesn't produce widely shared economic gains but instead widens the gap between those who have the right skills and those who don't.

A U.S. Department of Commerce survey of "information have-nots" reveals that about 20% of the poorest households in the U.S. do not have telephones. Moreover, only a fraction of those poor homes that do have phones will be able to afford the information technology that most economists agree is the key to a comfortable future.105 The richer the family, the more likely it is to have and use a computer.

Schooling especially collegeómakes a great difference. Every year of formal schooling after high school adds 5-15% to annual earnings later in life.106 Being well educated is only part of it, however; one should also be technologically literate. Employees who are skilled at technology "earn roughly 10-15% higher pay," according to the chief economist for the U.S. Labor Department

Advocates of information access for all find hope in the promises of Nil proponents for "universal service" and the wiring of every school to the Net. But this won't happen automatically. Ultimately we must become concerned with the effects of growing economic disparities on our social and political health.
Now that we've considered the challenges, let us discuss some of the promises of information technology not described so far. Some of these are truly impressive. They include intelligent agents and avatars, artificial intelligence, and the promises of the Information Revolution.