People often talk about the rapid evolution of technology, but when you consider where we are now compared to a decade ago, the pace of change really is incredible.
Just look at our phones. 10 years ago, hardly anyone had a smart phone, and those who did used them almost exclusively for communication. Today, your smart phone is how you shop; how you bank; how you hail a cab; how you follow the news; how you watch TV; how you order coffee; how you take a picture.
The fact is that we are no longer moving toward the digital economy. We have arrived.
This disruption presents tremendous opportunities to grow our economy, strengthen American businesses, and create new jobs for our workers. But it also forces us to modernize and reconsider policies that have been in place for decades.
That is why my team and I at the Department of Commerce were so enthusiastic about creating our new Digital Economy Board of Advisors. We want to hear from senior leaders in the field about what trends are coming and get advice on what the government can do to support and foster private sector innovation.
The Board met for the first time last week to offer recommendations on what the government should be doing to better advance economic growth and opportunity in the digital age.
The Commerce Department is committed to ensuring the digital economy continues to thrive and grow for everyone.
The Digital Economy Board of Advisors, which was announced in March, consists of 17 distinguished leaders who are serving two-year terms and have diverse backgrounds from across industry, civil society and academia. In that way the Board will continue on as a resource for the next Administration.
Board members spent their first meeting discussing how to best ensure America remains a worldwide leader for entrepreneurship and innovation. Members explored with Commerce leadership ways to promote future digital economy growth, and understand the technological transformation upon us. Zoë Baird, CEO and President of the Markle Foundation, also a co-chair of the board, led the group in a discussion around workforce issues, measurement and the role of small and medium enterprises in the digital economy.
James Manyika, Director at the McKinsey Global Institute, gave a presentation of trends in the emerging technology space. Board co-chair Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman of Mozilla, led a conversation on how the government can best keep up with the rapid pace of change.
Board members were particularly interested in pursuing more work, in the near term, in the areas of digital economy trends, measurement, skills, and platforms.
They especially coalesced around several themes:
- The need for the government to be informed of the latest trends and their implications;
- How we measure the digital economy in an era where free services are an important part of our GDP;
- The need to understand changes in the labor market and to ensure workers have the skills they need to fill the jobs of the 21st century;
- The importance of digital platforms as a launch pad for small and medium sized enterprises.
Members also highlighted the critical importance of cross-border information flows and digital trade, as well as the need for trust and security online.
These themes overlap with the Department’s Digital Economy Agenda, which is focused on promoting innovation, a free and open Internet, trust and security online, and Internet access for all Americans.
As part of this agenda, last week the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Economics and Statistics Administration convened a roundtable to discuss what data is needed to better measure the economic importance of the cross-border information flows that connect people and businesses across the globe. And the Department is currently conducting a review of the benefits, challenges, and potential roles for the government in fostering the advancement of the Internet of Things.
The Commerce Department also recently announced the launch of the Digital Attache program, a new initiative that establishes an expert network of commercial service officers around the world who are working to strengthen the global online marketplace.
During last week’s meeting, the Digital Economy Board of Advisors agreed to meet two more times this year, set up a series of working groups, and work together to put forth a set of digital economy recommendations in the fall.
Federal registrar notices will be filed in advance of future meetings, and participation by the public is welcome.