By Scott Ashton
This year has been defined by uncertainty — in homes, businesses, schools, and communities across the state. But one constant, keeping our economy and society afloat, has clearly emerged: technology. As lawmakers get back to work after a heated campaign cycle, they should recognize the value of technology platforms at the community level, embrace the role they will no doubt continue to play in our economic recovery, and avert any ill-timed rhetorical and regulatory moves against our state’s most innovative sector.
A state like California deserves measured leadership on technology-related issues. Southern California, in particular, has quickly established itself as a home to some of the most innovative and disruptive entrepreneurs in the nation. Consider one recent study, which found that nearly 1 in 10 jobs in the San Diego market are supported by the technology sector. While surging growth in the technology space has facilitated significant job and economic growth in our area, the robust small business community remains the backbone of Southern California — a community that is, thankfully, more digitally empowered today than ever before.
It is these small businesses, in particular, who have demonstrated an incredible level of grit through the pandemic. But beyond this fighting spirit, it’s impossible to ignore the role that technology platforms have played in keeping the lights on at the Oceanside community’s favorite restaurants, gyms, coffee shops, and everything in between.
There is certainly no “good time” for a global pandemic that upends our economy and disrupts operations for hard-working small business owners. But the level of resiliency in the small business community today is unprecedented, largely thanks to recent growth in the accessibility and affordability of online platforms. A recent study from the Connected Commerce Council found that 71% of small business owners in California were comfortable with digital tools before the pandemic — above the national average.
Digital platforms are no longer just efficiency improvements that enable growth for small businesses. Today, they are the difference between shuttering and survival. A social media presence, delivery capability, or online collaborative working platform may have given an edge to small business owners pre-pandemic. But they are now essential operating requirements for virtually any business hoping to stay above water.
With the election now behind us, political leaders at all levels of government have clear direction from their constituents: get our economy back on track. Not only will this require the continued support of technology companies, but it will necessitate a firm recognition by lawmakers about the lifelines provided by these very companies in the form of accessible digital tools. Now is not the time for burdensome regulation. And it is certainly not the time for politicians to make moves that might restrict access to critical tools for small businesses.
Far too often, on the campaign trail or in the halls of government, conversations surrounding technology are focused on lawmakers’ qualms with leading technology companies. It’s necessary to re-focus these conversations on how to harness the power of digital platforms, for the good of our economy and the livelihood of small business owners. We should encourage lawmakers — including those new to their positions following this year’s election — to take a closer look at how technology has buoyed our small business community and propelled the entrepreneurs who will become the success stories of tomorrow.