August is typically a quiet time in Washington, as it is throughout the country. But underneath the deceptively calm surface, high-stakes debates are roiling about the fall agenda: stimulating our economy and creating jobs, reducing health care costs while expanding coverage, addressing global climate change and more.
For years, if not decades, these debates have been primarily limited to the same handful of solutions: Do we raise taxes or reduce benefits? Choose our economy or the planet's sustainability? But increasingly, a third option is available to us all. This country has a long and successful history of turning to innovation in moments of seemingly insurmountable challenge, and it's time to do so once again.
Today, Mobile Future is releasing a report that explores the extraordinary potential wireless innovation holds to transform how we address our economy, health care, education, energy efficiency and even our democracy.
A few highlights:
- Economy: The U.S. wireless sector continues to grow, employing more than 2.7 million Americans and contributing $100 billion each year to the nation's GDP. The launch of a successful mobile app is rapidly replacing the IPO as the aspiration of garage innovators everywhere.
- Health Care: Wireless innovation can help our nation achieve the seemingly paradoxical goal of reducing costs while enhancing patient care. Remote monitoring of just four major chronic diseases, including diabetes and congestive heart failure, could help millions of Americans stay out of the hospital and avoid complications, while saving billions in medical costs.
- Education: Initiatives that give underprivileged kids connected netbooks that they can use at school and take home are helping close the digital divide, erasing both geographic and economic barriers to a quality education and the many opportunities that the online world brings into our lives.
- Energy Efficiency: Connected smart grids rely on wireless innovation to more efficiently distribute energy, eliminating up to 30% of our electricity use simply by cutting out the often rampant waste in our legacy systems.
U.S. wireless innovation is a profound American success story--one that has been fueled at every turn by the enthusiasm and seemingly insatiable demand of consumers. Nearly 90% of American adults now have a mobile device, and virtually all of us keep them within arm's reach 24 hours a day. Even better, innovation continues to unfurl at a rapid pace, guided by the relentless pressure to one-up competitors and continually wow consumers. The release of a new handset is a pop culture event on a par with the biggest summer blockbuster. And, heavily discounted prices make an array of high-end devices--from the iPhone to the Blackberry Storm to the Palm Pre--broadly accessible to U.S. consumers, accelerating the evolution of mobile devices from mere phones to full-fledged computers in the palms of our hands.
We all agree that wireless is successful. In this paper, we ask the question: Why? What key decisions enabled the rapid rise of this platform for innovation, economic growth and a more informed and connected world?
U.S. wireless leads the world because the consumer-centric and flexible regulatory framework set up by a Democratic Congress in the early 1990s empowers consumers to shape the market's rapid innovation and growth. This success offers a model for the 21st century--powerfully demonstrating what a collaborative approach among consumers, policymakers and a competitive industry can achieve.
The mobile future is poised to transform virtually every aspect of our modern lives. But we stand at a crossroads today. Particularly with our nation facing extraordinary challenges, we should proceed with extreme caution when it comes to new government interventions.
Now is not the time to deny our nation the much-needed benefits of rapid, ongoing innovation. It is a time for bold new solutions. As key policy debates heat up, here's hoping American innovation gets a constructive seat at the table--and the opportunity to, once again, deliver needed progress for our nation.
Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future, served as chief information officer at the United States Information Agency and as an advisor to and spokesperson for Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration. www.mobilefuture.org