You don't need a PhD in economics to realize that times are pretty tough right now -- especially for those at the lower end of the income ladder. Fortunately, though, Microsofthas announced a new initiative aimed at providing one million students from low-income families with discounted hardware, software and broadband service. This three-year digital inclusion program is an extension of Redmond's Shape the Future campaign, which, over the course of five years, has already put computers in the hands of more than 10 million underprivileged children around the globe. Under this public-private partnership, Microsoft will work with a variety of nonprofit, corporate and governmental organizations to provide low-cost PCs, educational software, job skills training and high-speed internet to those who need it most. The ultimate goal, of course, is to bridge the achievement gap dividing students with at-home internet from their less digitally-equipped peers. According to the Federal Reserve, children who don't have online access at home graduate high school at a rate that's six to eight percentage points lower than those who do. Inflating national poverty rates and widening income gaps probably won't do much to remedy that discrepancy, but we're certainly hoping that Microsoft can make a difference.