Where Politicians Fail, Innovation Delivers

By: Laurel Duggan

American innovation has carried us through the pandemic. Tech companies have created solutions to public health emergencies while providing vital support to American businesses.

Yet America’s most successful tech companies are the target of attacks from both sides of the aisle and are viewed with hostility by much of the American public. Indiscriminate hatred and fear of large businesses has become prominent among populists on the Left and the Right. This crowd views corporations’ gains as the public’s loss, failing to see the jobs and opportunities these businesses bring to working Americans. This is very convenient for elected officials, who can score political points by attacking American businesses rather than solving actual problems. 

Innovative tech companies provided a lifeline to Americans stuck at home during the pandemic. A shutdown at this scale would have been impossible twenty years ago. Remote work, distance learning, and online economic activity like shopping have helped keep our economy on the rails throughout this crisis. 

Tech firms are also paving the way for effective, privacy-minded contact tracing. Contract tracing is an ancient method of disease control, but modern technology makes the method easier and more effective. The contract tracing system developed by Google and Apple requires patient consent before sharing anonymous health data with locally developed public health apps. The local app then notifies anyone that a COVID patient has contacted in the previous 14 days that they are at risk and need to be tested. 

Medical use drones offer promising solutions to some of the major logistical problems facing the healthcare industry. Rwanda and Ghana have already seen significant healthcare improvements with the use of drones for delivery of medical supplies. As regulations ease in the U.S., several promising experiments in UAV medical deliveries have taken place. As drone companies continue to build out safety technologies, UAVs will reduce delivery times for organs and medical supplies, cutting costs and improving health outcomes. The recent increase in public support for these technologies is a promising sign. 

The benefits of tech are also interpersonal. Throughout quarantine, Americans have been able to connect with family and friends across the globe. Churches are able to keep their members connected by livestreaming services to YouTube and Facebook at no cost. In the midst of loneliness and uncertainty, vulnerable populations can still easily contact their loved ones. Those hospitalized during quarantine can have video calls during their most difficult moments. Tech allows us to be, as the saying goes, alone together. 

For those unemployed or furloughed, the tech industry offers numerous gig jobs. As unemployment rates soared this spring, tech companies created countless contract work opportunities for enterprising individuals. Food delivery services like Uber Eats create flexible work, which is especially important for working parents who no longer have access to childcare. The same companies have helped locally owned restaurants stay afloat when dining in was not an option.

And economic support goes far beyond restaurant delivery; the U.S. tech sector played a vital role in developing the infrastructure used in industries such as healthcare, agriculture, food processing, and construction. These essential industries were able to carry on during the most economically disruptive event in our lifetime. 

Larger tech companies also aid small businesses directly; Facebook has pledged to give small businesses $100 million in grants, citing the symbiotic relationship between small businesses and tech. Small businesses depend on free services provided by Facebook and other companies to stay in contact with their communities, but tech companies also rely on small businesses creating content and bringing viewers to their sites. 

Despite the vital role that American tech companies have played throughout the pandemic, they continue to be the scapegoat of choice for politicians looking to strike a populist cord. Congress, numerous state attorneys general, and the Department of Justice continue to barrage tech companies with antitrust suits. American tech leadership has been a boon for the nation, particularly during the pandemic. Rather than punishing their success, regulators should give tech companies space to innovate.

Photo Credit: Book Catalog