The Economic and Civic Opportunities Created by the Internet of Everything

On Thursday September 12, Washington news organization Politico Pro hosted an event entitled “The Future of the Internet” featuring President of Cisco Systems Rob Lloyd and President of Zipcar Mark Norman, former U.S. Senator John Sununu (R-NH) and South Orange, NJ Mayor Alex Torpey. Every panelist agreed that the Internet is a force that already has, is currently, and will continue to revolutionize the way people, businesses, and government interacts among themselves and with each other that will yield positive benefits for citizens and the economy alike.

The central topic discussed was the “Internet of Everything,” which the Progressive Policy Institute defined as meaning the “natural extension of Internet-type connectivity to physical objects, so that things are linked with data, people, and processes.” President Lloyd of Cisco explained that only one percent of electronics are connected via the Internet, which leaves vast potential to innovate and explore new frontiers creating societal betterment and economic gain. The McKinsey Global Institute projects that the Internet of Everything (IoE) will add $600 billion to $1.4 trillion to US GDP by the year 2025 and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates it will continue to add 0.2 to 0.4 percent to annual GDP growth following 2025. Additionally, Mr. Lloyd said “there is $14.4 trillion dollars between now and 2020 that is going to come from connecting the things that haven’t been connected.” The industrial Internet that grows every day and includes more and more of the devices and services people rely on will undoubtedly keep revolutionizing our economy and way of life according to Mark Norman.

While no one disputes the opportunities created by the industrial Internet, the role of government in its rise is much more uncertain. “The challenge for Washington is understanding when they can and can’t be helpful in that process,” said former Senator Sununu. The Internet has long been referred to as the Wild West for the chances it gives individuals and businesses to pursue their ideas in an abundantly open and “lawless” environment. However, there are ways in which Washington can make positive contributions.

First, the government regulates the spectrum, a public good that serves as the medium through which the Internet operates, and which influences entrepreneurial and commercial activity. Next, government has the power to influence how we educate our children to make them better equipped to live and positively participate in a world that is more and more dominated by technology. This is done by teaching them the technical skills they will need to succeed. Furthermore, the Internet itself provides a platform through which citizens can engage with government and communicate their desires and ideas to the elected officials who serve them. Mayor Torpey spoke about the benefits of open and transparent government and how it helps to “create a new discourse in electoral politics” that helps to engage younger generations of voters and citizens who are more in tune with the culture of the Internet age.

The panelists agreed the Internet of Everything certainly has thrust creative destruction upon our current ways of doing business and living and has subsequently paved the way for new industries, products, and services. As the panelists also pointed out: change is inevitable, change should be encouraged, and change should not be met with restrictive regulations that will inevitably reduce the societal gains produced by the Internet. The government, businesses, and individuals are all faced with the Internet becoming a bigger and bigger part of their daily lives and activities for well into the foreseeable future and should come together to shape it through their regulations, goods and services, and votes.

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