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Opinion: Embracing tech to empower our recovery

  

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 90 percent of U.S. adults felt the internet served an important role in their day-to-day lives, and nearly half claimed that disruption to their cellphone or internet service during the crisis would be a major concern. 

As the virus spread rapidly throughout the nation, adapting to the “new normal” triggered a new type of reliance on digital tools, and in response, our internet use grew by an estimated 70 percent.

Maryann Manion

Working in an office or attending in-person schooling was no longer a part of our daily realities. Instead, we spent hours on video calls, emails, and virtual gatherings. 

We used digital apps for grocery delivery in place of in-person shopping, and we replaced our regular visits to the doctor with telemedicine appointments. 

Socializing with friends was made possible in large part through social media and video conferencing platforms.  

Digital platforms have been a necessity throughout this public health crisis and staying connected to many of our colleagues, friends, and loved ones would not have been possible without these technologies. 

Our access to technology platforms also enabled struggling businesses to survive major disruptions that otherwise could have resulted in some having to close their doors. 

study by the Connected Commerce Council found that “68 percent of small businesses found digital tools either essential to their business or used in an important supporting capacity pre-COVID-19” with 85 percent of small businesses nationwide saying “COVID–19 made them rethink their approach to digital tools.”

 Seventy-seven percent of Missouri’s small businesses adapted to the pandemic by increasing their use of digital tools, including relying on increased use of digital ads, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, and customer insights tools. 

Small businesses that embraced this technology and used digital tools created new ways to market their products and services through e-commerce platforms. They were able to reach both current and new consumers who were shopping from the comfort of their homes. 

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2020, online sales surged with “consumers spending $211.5 billion during the second quarter on e-commerce sites.”

Even as occupancy restrictions on local businesses and restaurants begin to ease, small business owners will continue to face an uphill battle to achieve full economic recovery, and technology platforms will continue to play a vital role in this process. 

As COVID-19 subsides, 53 percent of small business owners in Missouri report they have plans to increase their use of digital tools.

Missouri’s growing tech start-up sector is helping to advance innovative technologies that will be critical to powering this future growth. Many new tech job opportunities will open up to Missourians.

Technology’s role in enhancing connectivity will only continue to grow. The past 13 months must serve as a reminder of the positive impact technological innovation has had on our state’s overall economy and the prosperity of our small business sector.

As Missouri heads toward economic recovery,  our lawmakers must promote policies that foster technological innovation and support our tech entrepreneurs both here in Missouri and across the nation. 

Smart policies will ensure that our innovators remain competitive and can continue to lead in developing the technologies of tomorrow. Our economic recovery depends on it.