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This paper contains introductory comments to a conference session on new inequalities deriving from new technologies for information and communication. The session was part of the conference "Towards an Information Society: A Challenge or a Chance for Europe," organized by European offices of the Aspen Institute, held on 10-12 May 1996 in Lyon, France. The authors propose that the new information and communication technologies may profoundly alter the behavior--and thus affect the balance--among individuals, firms, and countries. The effects differ for each of these societal levels. Trends regarding individuals in the U.S. indicate the potential for an emergence of "information apartheid" in which sizable sectors of the population might be routinely excluded from the new instruments of learning, work, commerce and culture without some intervention by government policy. At the level of firms it appears that smaller firms can gain comparatively greater benefits from networks than larger firms. Speeding access to open and low-cost broad networks may reduce old inequalities between large and small companies. At the country level the picture is mixed, but due to the flexibility of the new media to accommodate a multiplicity of suppliers, protocols, languages, channels, preferences and the like, new inequalities in the results at all levels will be influenced far more by governmental policy than by technology.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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