In this recent posting for the Huffington Post, Robert D. Atkinson, Ph.D., succinctly lays out why an economic stimulus package must address America’s digital infrastructure. Using a promising report on investment in the U.S. IT infrastructure and jobs as his jumping off point, Dr. Atkinson writes:
Investing in these IT infrastructures has a number of benefits. For one, IT jobs are generally higher-skill, high-paying jobs from telecommunications line installers, to software engineers, to electric utility workers.
In addition, these types of IT infrastructure enable a whole host of innovations and new industries that a comparable investment in physical infrastructure would not. For example, broadband has spawned entirely new industries—from Internet search to online retail—creating employment not just in the new firms in these industries (e.g. Google, E-Bay) and the new occupations needed to support them (e.g. user interaction designers and online experience managers) but also through jobs created by individuals leveraging or using these technologies and services. To take but one example, Ebay has found that more than 724,000 Americans report that Ebay serves as their primary or secondary source of income. While obviously these are not all full time jobs (though many are), this lone example demonstrates the powerful ability of digital infrastructure to create jobs from this “network effect.” These are new jobs being generated far upstream from the direct jobs associated with the initial investment to lay fiber optic cable, purchase hardware, or develop new software that supports health IT or a smart electric grid and the ensuing indirect and induced jobs.
For more on America’s network infrastructure, check out this section from IIA’s Broadband Fact Book.