To the surprise of very few people who follow the tech scene, the app economy creates a lot of jobs, and it’s probably not shocking to learn that the majority of the jobs created in this industry are located in California. If you’re one of the nearly 152,000 Californians holding down an app economy gig, life is pretty good.
It’s good for the rest of us, too. Thousands of app sector jobs generate an economic impact that’s north of $8 billion, which is $2 billion more than the app economies in the great states of Washington, New York and Texas combined.
As the nation works through its economic recovery, app economy workers enjoy a high degree of job security, a rarity in other sectors, thanks in part to a huge proliferation in mobile device ownership. More devices mean more people potentially downloading and using apps. A recent White House report claims there are an astounding 500 million mobile devices in the U.S., though our domestic population is only about 314 million. Worldwide, one billion smartphones will ship this year, further expanding the customer pool.
As consumers, we’re seemingly not content unless we’ve got multiple devices to work and play with – the more the merrier. Year-to-date, there have been $72 billion in app transactions and the marketplace is predicted to explode to $151 billion by 2017. This data points to an explosion in a nascent industry as well as high hopes for a high-flying future.
Yes, California is the "it" state for applications, but why? Is it the presence of renowned academic institutions such as Stanford and Caltech? Could it be the incredible access to capital found on Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road? Or is simply the romantic allure of founding a startup in a garage, sunny skies overhead? I would argue ‘yes’ to all of the above. But I’d also argue that there is one reason California rises to the top that might not leap to mind, and that’s the role of state policymakers. California has some smart lawmakers and regulators who display great leadership in the tech space and their vision makes a difference.
At the top of the list is State Senator Alex Padilla. Padilla, a Los Angeles native, has seemingly adopted Silicon Valley as his second home. His relationship with and understanding of the Valley has done wonders to move the tech industry forward as a whole.
Padilla stepped up to the plate last year when he carried legislation that paves the way for the operation of autonomous, or self-driving cars, on California’s roads, technology that can increase driver safety while decreasing road rage. This bill (SB 1298) helped cement our state’s status as an innovative, cutting-edge test lab for Jetsons-like technologies. He also carried legislation that supports the way people are choosing to communicate in the 21st Century. Padilla’s bill, SB 1161, kept VoIP and IP-enabled services free from outdated, looking-in-the-rear-view-mirror type regulation. As a result of Padilla’s efforts, the state was able to hit the trifecta of smart regulations: a win for innovators, a win for consumers, and a win for the economy.
But even in our state’s thriving tech culture, some lingering policy obstacles threaten to slow things down. The recent fight over ridesharing services like SideCar and Lyft, for example, highlight the need for smart regulatory decisions to keep the tech economy — and all the jobs it creates — going like gangbusters.
It took an innovative regulatory approach from state Public Utilities President Michael Peevey to find a potential solution to the rideshare mess; just as it took smart legislation from State Senator Alex Padilla to ensure investment in the Internet and California’s app economy continued to flow.
These are just two examples of state leaders standing up for California’s tech community. And if our state’s digital economy is going to continue booming, smart policymaking is a necessity.
California is a model for the rest of the country when it comes to technology — a model in fostering innovation and a model in job creation. To maintain our dominance, we need a regulatory environment that encourages investment, innovation, and job creation in the technology sector.
Given how important the tech industry is — and will continue to be — to America’s economy, it’s not a reach to say what’s good for the Golden State is good for the country.
This article was originally published in Techwire Magazine.