We are rocketing through the turbulent and disorienting decades between the old Industrial Age and the new Information Age. In this new information-driven economy, the old rules of success do not apply; in fact, adherence to the old rules and assumptions that helped us succeed in the past equates to failure in the future. There is a fundamental change in the way we work and the kind of work most people do.

Here is an interesting statistic: The manufacturing and agriculture segments of our economy have diminished to less than 20 percent of our workforce; future gains in productivity will make it even less. Future success for government lies in defining, shaping and leading the information and service sector of the economy, particularly though the use of computer and telecommunication technologies. It is evident that a large portion of our economy is in the service and information sector. Government carries an enormous responsibility for investing in and shaping the new economy to insure the prosperity of future generations.

Call for Action

The 18th-century economy grew along the waterways, the 19th century along the railroads and the 20th century along the highways. Similarly the 21st-century economy will grow along the "networks." It is apparent that a strong telecommunications and information infrastructure will create a global environment where "you do not go to work -- work comes to you."

The single, most critical strategy for a "new economy-friendly" community is to develop a telecommunications and information infrastructure that links governments, schools, businesses and citizens and is supplemented by an appropriate policy, regulatory, educational and evangelical framework. The benefits gained from a strong telecommunications and information infrastructure are:

Expansion in areas of existing economic strength;

Creation and attraction of new business enterprises;

Positioning small- and medium-sized businesses to seek global and national markets;

Improving the productivity and distribution of goods and services;\

Spawning new information and service enterprises;

Providing new information tools to make agriculture and manufacturing more productive and profitable;

Incubating new economic enterprises, such as telemedicine and distance learning;

Distributing economic growth throughout the community, as it allows knowledgeable workers to work where they live;

Allowing government to accelerate and streamline processes and foster a "business-friendly" image.

Public/Private Collaboration

Telecommunications and information infrastructure development require strong involvement by the private sector as well as the community. Private-sector involvement is critical both in terms of skills needed and, in many cases, the capital to build the infrastructure. Community involvement is critical for gaining support to build this infrastructure, as it is going to be built largely on faith. The prevalent accounting principles of return on investment or pay back do not apply. Furthermore, this effort should be considered an "advanced community development" exercise requiring collaboration from the citizens, businesses, academia and government.

A Self Assessment

The questionnaire below is intended to assist community or government leaders at all levels in assessing their readiness to meet the challenge of migration to this new economy. While posed as questions, these are not really intended to have "yes" or "no" answers; they are food for thought.

If you want to supplement your qualitative assessment with a quantitative one, score each question on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a highly favorable response. The following benchmark is offered by the author:

0-50 -- Move out of the community, especially if you have children or desire a high-quality life in the future.

51-120 -- Elect/appoint new leaders or send existing leaders to reform school.

121-180 -- There is hope. Take stock, get back to work and review the successful practices of others.

180 - Up -- Take time to celebrate. Buy stock in your community. Become a shining light for others; many