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Internet Governance 22 October 2013

The Open Internet is Good for Business

Michael Kende
By Michael KendeFormer Chief Economist, Internet Society

There are many ways that the Internet is good for business.

Companies can use it to innovate and sell into new markets.  Within just a month or two of its launch in 1995, Amazon.com had already sold books in all 50 states and 45 countries, a feat that no traditional bookseller could have reached without years of investment and expansion.

Less well understood, however, is how the open Internet is good for business.   

The Internet allows for what we call permissionless innovation, where anyone can create and offer a service.  This enabled Jeff Bezos to start Amazon.com in his garage with just his savings, and expand rapidly into one of the largest global retailers. Likewise, Google and Facebook were started by students, alongside thousands of other entrepreneurs around the world who have pursued their dreams online.

From Togo to Mars

The open, collaborative and decentralized nature of the Internet is the perfect breeding ground for innovation and new entrepreneurs. This is particularly pronounced in the developing world, where the Internet is an engine for growth and sustainable development.  Whereas Amazon.com had to compete, and ultimately thrive, in a market where consumers already had access to bookstores, in developing countries often the online solution is the only solution.  

In the Philippines, just to name one example, up to 70% of adults use mobile money – many or most of whom were ‘unbanked’ before that.  A young inventor in Togo, Kodjo Afate Gnikou, recently raised more than $5000 on a crowdsourced financing site to design a $100 3D printer using scrap electronic parts. He plans to submit the design to NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge aimed at Mars.

 

The Open Internet enables these innovative new services and goods to be created and sold. An inventor in Africa is able to get online, browse the web to learn the basics of designing a 3D printer, raise money from a website in Europe, and enter a competition with the results in the US. This is a feat that would have been inconceivable without an open network.

The Internet works because its governance is distributed, open, inclusive, collaborative, and transparent. The concept that “all should have access to information and the opportunities it brings” is what maintains the Internet as one of the most impactful engines for growth and development in mankind’s recent history. It is the secret sauce, the idea that we all need to protect and build on.

 

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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