Op-eds

Is America’s Digital Leadership on the Wane? Op-Ed by Dean Chakravorti in The Conversation

The Conversation

Bhaskar Chakravorti is a Senior Associate Dean at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

American leadership in technology innovation and economic competitiveness is at risk if U.S. policymakers don’t take crucial steps to protect the country’s digital future. The country that gave the world the internet and the very concept of the disruptive startup could find its role in the global innovation economy slipping from reigning incumbent to a disrupted has-been.

My research, conducted with Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi, investigates our increasingly digital global society, in which physical interactions – in communications, social and political exchange, commerce, media and entertainment – are being displaced by electronically mediated ones. Our most recent report, “Digital Planet 2017: How Competitiveness and Trust in Digital Economies Vary Across the World,” confirms that the U.S. is on the brink of losing its long-held global advantage in digital innovation.

Our yearlong study examined factors that influence innovation, such as economic conditions, governmental backing, startup funding, research and development spending and entrepreneurial talent across 60 countries. We found that while the U.S. has a very advanced digital environment, the pace of American investment and innovation is slowing. Other countries – not just major powers like China, but also smaller nations like New Zealand, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates – are building significant public and private efforts that we expect to become foundations for future generations of innovation and successful startup businesses.

Based on our findings, I believe that rolling back net neutrality rules will jeopardize the digital startup ecosystem that has created value for customers, wealth for investors and globally recognized leadership for American technology companies and entrepreneurs. The digital economy in the U.S. is already on the verge of stalling; failing to protect an open internet would further erode the United States’ digital competitiveness, making a troubling situation even worse.

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