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Seminar: bridging the digital divide

  • Date(s)
    6 March 2007
  • Time
    5:00 p.m.
  • Location
    Policy Network Board Room

Policy Network hosted an informal roundtable discussion with Dr Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and Lord Anthony Giddens on 6 March from 17:00 - 18:30. Dr Atkinson spoke about the challenges presented by the growth in new technologies and how they can be used to pursue progressive goals of sustainable growth and equality.

The growth of the ‘digital economy’, much-heralded in the 1990s before the ‘tech-bubble’ burst, continues to revolutionise our lives by transforming the service economy, reshaping employment relations and boosting productivity and competitiveness.

Issues as diverse as the outsourcing of services, the rise of emerging economies in Asia, growing consumer empowerment and the reduced cost of air-travel are all linked to the ongoing expansion of the digital economy. Over the last ten years, technology and the new economy have moved from the fringes to the mainstream of economic policy-making. Yet the social implications are not well understood.

Important questions remain about how progressives can harness the economic potential of new technology, while ensuring that the benefits and opportunities are widely distributed. Concerns continue about the ‘digital divide’ where particular groups in society lack the skills to enter the digital economy, becoming increasingly marginalised. Bridging this divide remains a major public policy challenge for progressive politics.

These questions were addressed by Dr Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington DC, and a leading expert on the digital economy. Former vice-president of the Progressive Policy Institute, Dr Atkinson headed research on the Technology and New Economy Project. He has authored several acclaimed articles and books on the subject including "The Past and Future of America’s Economy: Long Waves of Innovation that Power Cycles of Growth", "Supply-Side Follies: How Conservative Economics Fails, Liberal Economics Falters and Innovation Economics is the Answer", as well as a chapter on inequality in the knowledge economy in "The New Egalitarianism" edited by Patrick Diamond and Anthony Giddens.

While in London, Dr Atkinson gave evidence to a parliamentary committee, but also agreed to address this Policy Network seminar to discuss his recent research with experts, politicians and policy-makers.

Following a presentation by Dr Atkinson, Lord Anthony Giddens responded to some of the issues raised and open up a broader discussion.

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