Some of America’s leaders in education and top high-tech executives gathered to discuss ways their companies, the federal government, and the education community can encourage children and their families to expand their use of the internet as a learning tool.

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the independent think tank The Aspen Institute, the high-tech executives agreed that they foresee super-fast and continuous connections to the internet—the so-called “high bandwidth” telecommunications system—coming rapidly. And they agreed that the digital divide is real and will require research and substantial effort and investment to bridge.

Eliminating the digital divide will become even more important as the rapid pace of change in modern society necessitates lifelong education and learning, said one speaker. Those who do not have internet access will be left even further behind.

Several panelists said the government will continue to play a major role in developing America’s technological infrastructure and encouraging its use, much as it did in the development of the internet. Profit-oriented companies simply won’t engage in this activity on their own.

Government can also be integral in encouraging teachers to learn how to teach with technology, the panelists agreed, but they did not offer strong recommendations about how to train teachers in technology or encourage teachers to seek training.

Several panelists expressed skepticism that schools as they are structured today allow for learning at a pace that meets each student’s needs. The movement toward state education standards may fly in the face of using technology to help students follow their interests and skills.

One panelists suggested that a national advertising campaign could alert families to the many benefits their children would receive from regular web use. Television ads could be supplemented with web information giveaways at stores.

Panelists also discussed the idea of starting an organization—akin to a high-level, domestic Peace Corps—to place executives with information-technology skills as unpaid volunteers in key places in government.