By: Representative Yvette D. Clarke and Internet Association President & CEO Michael Beckerman
The internet is about opportunity. Its evolution continues to open doors for students to further their education, for communities to exchange ideas, and for small businesses to leverage tools that help them market their products and engage consumers. In places like Brooklyn, one of the most diverse communities in America, the growth of the internet fosters economic opportunity, cultural inclusion, and community building.
Internet-enabled innovation expands the possibilities for local businesses and other organizations to thrive in an increasingly global and digital world. A recent visit to local businesses and community organizations on our “Internet Community Crawl” highlighted the immense value internet-enabled services provide New Yorkers in the City’s most populated borough.
On the crawl, we heard from Brooklynites at Domo Taco, viBe Theater Experience, and Berg’n beer hall, each of whom highlighted the critical role the internet has played in growing their organizations and making a difference in the community.
These local stories illustrate the fact that now, more than 75 percent of the economic value created by the internet is captured by businesses in traditional industries. For Brooklyn, that translates to more than 42,000 local businesses gaining value from internet-enabled services, products, and platforms.
This impact underscores the need for policies that encourage digital innovation and unrestricted access to a free and open internet.
Brooklyn is the perfect case study to show how the internet creates opportunity for people of all backgrounds. It exemplifies the melting pot that underpins our nation’s unique identity. Beyond economic activity, the internet paves the way for a more diverse and inclusive business and cultural environment. Not only is the internet empowering diverse communities to build their own businesses, the internet industry also prioritizes hiring a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive work environment.
The community crawl also shed light on the positive impact the internet has on building community and empowering marginalized groups. At viBe Theater Experience, Executive
Director Toya Lillard emphasized how the internet has helped her free, nonprofit after-school program empower young women to find their voice through theater and musical performances. Online tools help keep costs down, get their message out, stay in contact with alumna, and showcase young womens’ performances for a global audience. Toya mentioned that, thanks to social media, the theater actually has a following in South Africa.
Thomas Yang, manager of Domo Taco, explained how social media has been foundational to growing his business by allowing him to better reach customers, making his shop a community favorite. Domo Taco started as a food truck, and he said he noticed the difference in businesses on days when he didn’t announce his location online. Jen Watson talked about her vision for Berg’n as a community gathering space and how high-quality, free wifi made that a reality. At every stop, we learned how the internet fosters community by bringing groups together and facilitating collaboration.
These stories aren’t limited to the ones we’ve highlighted – they span every corner of our community, state, and country. Internet-enabled innovation has improved opportunity for Americans from every walk of life. It allows community efforts to be seen throughout the country, and enables small businesses, the foundation of a strong local economy, to thrive.
These benefits extend throughout the state of New York and communities across the U.S. In fact, Internet Association research found the internet economy generates 10 percent of New York’s economic growth, and directly employs more than 216,000 New Yorkers. On a national scale, the internet economy generates 6 percent of the nation’s GDP, a percentage that continues to grow.
The internet has improved our daily lives in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. It’s time we ensure that continues. We look forward to working together to ensure policy supports the innovations of tomorrow, and in turn, a better future for our communities.