How to Keep Emerging Technologies Emerging? Software Group Says Digital Trade



Software’s booming, posting huge gains in economic impact, investment, and job growth in recent years, according to a new industry report. But digital trade is critical to sustaining that growth.

A Sept. 26 report from  the BSA Foundation shows the software industry employed 2.9 million people last year across all 50 states, an increase of 14 percent since 2014. It directly contributed $564.4 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016, an almost 19-percent increase over two years, and invested more than $63 billion in research and development in 2013, the latest year for which data was available and a 21-percent increase over the prior year.

To keep those numbers up, though, the U.S. must support the development of emerging technologies through strong digital trade provisions in NAFTA and other agreements, Victoria Espinel, the foundation’s president and the president and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance, an industry trade group that represents such companies as Microsoft Corp. and Inc.

Digital trade provisions are essential for new technologies, like artificial intelligence and analytics, to develop— and to protect source code and stop countries from imposing requirements such as forcing companies to store data locally, Espinel told Bloomberg BNA.

“Unless data can move across borders with relatively little friction, then emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and big data analytics will not be possible,” Espinel said. And if those technologies wither, so will associated jobs and R&D investment, she said.

Digital provisions are being mulled in this week’s round of negotiations to modernize 1994’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Representatives from the U.S., Mexico and Canada began the latest round of talks Sept. 23 in Ottawa.