Software today is woven through the entire fabric of modern life — and yet software innovation continues to explode in exciting new directions, driven by dynamic forces such as cloud and mobile computing. That’s why, as I step down this week as CEO of BSA, I am optimistic about the industry’s future. Looking forward, I believe the next few decades hold even more potential for innovation and growth than we have already seen up to this point.
My only real concern in this phase of opportunity and transformation is that governments have a great deal of work to do to ensure innovators have easy access to global markets. Yet here, too, I see cause for optimism. Just look at the confluence of trade negotiations now underway globally.
In the Atlantic region, the United States and Europe Union are entering talks to forge a pact that will accelerate commerce between two economies that account for half of global output and one-third of all trade. On the other side of the globe, 11 Pacific Rim countries will soon be joined by Japan — the world’s third-largest national economy — for negotiations on the ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership. Meanwhile, 21 parties representing 47 economies are about to start work on a comprehensive agreement to liberalize trade across a broad range of services, from insurance to cloud computing. And on top of all this, another large group of countries are working to modernize and expand the international agreement that since 1997 has eliminated taxes and tariffs on a wide range of information technology products.
Not since the Uruguay Round of multilateral negotiations produced the World Trade Organization in the early 1990s has there been such a compelling opportunity for the international trading system to promote economic integration and innovation-driven growth. Governments need to seize the moment.
To fully appreciate the nature of the oportunity in front of us, consider how the emergence of cloud computing and the proliferation of powerful mobile devices — coming on top of the PC and Internet foundation already in place — have helped solidify a whole new platform for business innovation, cutting across all sectors of the economy and regions of the world. This is to the benefit of software and other IT industries that are powering the advances. But more broadly, it is creating new avenues for small and medium-sized enterprises and individual entrepreneurs all around the world to germinate ideas and amplify their impact by scaling them up in ways that used to be the exclusive province of large corporations.
To capitalize on all this portends, governments and their trade leaders need to reduce friction in the global economy, lower market barriers, and ensure that data — the currency of the information age — can flow freely across borders. I won’t claim it will be as easy as it sounds. The Uruguay Round took about six years, after all. And as BSA has documented, there is a countervailing wave of trade protectionism sweeping through many of the world’s fastest-growing IT markets. Yet there is also a growing recognition, born of an economic imperative, that governments around the world need to work together to open markets, spur innovation and drive growth. The scale of the opportunity at hand provides ample incentive to forge agreements that will allow us to secure the vast public benefits sure to flow from the next waves of software innovation and growth.