Growing the Digital Economy

Pete CodellaBroadband

commerce logo digital economyThe U.S. Department of Commerce released a report this month detailing the growth of the digital economy over the last seven years.  In 2014, over half of U.S. services exports came from Information and Communications Technology (ICT) enabled deliverable services.  This amounted to an over $400 billion contribution.  Additionally, the digital economy has added millions of new jobs across all sectors, and directly increased U.S. GDP by more than a percentage point every year.

Titled, Enabling Growth in the Digital Economy, the report focuses on the efforts of government to create an ideal environment for innovation and access to technology.  The U.S. approach has largely followed the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Principles for Internet Policy-Making.  The OECD was founded in 1961, and acts as a forum for its 34 member countries to consider policies to improve economic and social well-being of people around the world.

The OECD principles are organized around a flexible policy approach that aims to develop a vibrant and prosperous global Internet.  The Commerce Department has integrated the OECD principles into the U.S. approach to international negotiation and to the nation’s domestic policy approach to Internet governance and the digital economy.  These principles (found on page 2 of the report) include:

  • Multistakeholder Internet policymaking and standards development, in which all stakeholders may participate in open, transparent, and consensus-driven decision making processes;
  • Strong protections for intellectual property, balanced with appropriate exceptions and limitations, such as fair use, which encourage investment and content creation in the digital environment;
  • Open and voluntary technical standards, allowing for digital technologies and services to interoperate, and digital entrepreneurs to innovate more easily and to build off existing infrastructure;
  • Focus on the user, ensuring that users’ interests are paramount, and that users have the skills, education, and access necessary to reap the benefits of digital technologies;
  • Public/private partnerships, which bring the resources and reach of the government to supplement private sector investments and activities;
  • International engagement, recognizing that the Internet is truly global, and that for it to continue to serve as a source of economic growth and social development, the United States must actively promote a vision of the digital economy consistent with open and democratic values.

The Commerce Department report summarizes activities organized around four policy pillars used to promote the digital economy throughout President Obama’s two terms: 1.) The Free and Open Internet; 2.) Trust and Security Online; 3.) Innovation and Emerging Technologies; and 4.) Access and Skills.  The Department’s “Access and Skills” initiatives led to State Broadband Initiative funding, The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), The Broadband Opportunity Council, and most recently BroadbandUSA, which was launched in January of 2015 following the work of the Broadband Opportunity Council.

Looking forward, the report’s authors suggest the key to growing the digital economy will depend on preparedness, collaborative efforts of government and industry, and the ease with which Americans can adapt to emerging and changing technologies.

Read the full report here: