With the emerging digital economy becoming a major driving force of our nation's economic well-being, we must ensure that all Americans have the information tools and skills that are critical to their participation. Access to such tools is an important step to ensure that our economy grows strongly and that in the future no one is left behind.

Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide is an important part of the Commerce Department's efforts to understand, measure, and explain how the information revolution is affecting the nation. The report provides comprehensive data on the level of access by Americans to telephones, computers, and the Internet. It also provides valuable information about where Americans are gaining access and what they are doing with their online connections. The report provides the factual foundation for key policy initiatives to promote greater access for all Americans.

While we know that Americans are more connected to digital tools than ever before, the report provides evidence that the "digital divide" between certain demographic groups and regions of our country continues to persist and in many cases is widening significantly. We should be alarmed by this news.

Ensuring access to the fundamental tools of the digital economy is one of the most significant investments our nation can make. Our country's most important resource is its people. Our companies are only as good as their workers. Highly-skilled, well educated workers make for stellar businesses and create superior products. In a society that increasingly relies on computers and the Internet to deliver information and enhance communication, we need to make sure that all Americans have access. Our domestic and global economies will demand it. Ready access to telecommunications tools will help produce the kind of technology-literate work force that will enable the United States to continue to be a leader in the global economy.

This report complements the Department of Commerce's reports on The Emerging Digital Economy and on the information technology work force challenges, The Digital Dilemma: Building Infotech Skills at the Speed of Innovation.

Both the government and the private sector must embrace policies and initiatives that bridge the divide. We look forward to working with the private sector to bring the riches of the Information Age to everyone.

William M. Daley