Unlike many other past technological revolutions, the current digital revolution is almost uniquely democratic in the way that it has empowered smaller businesses and individuals. Wherever better digital infrastructure is set up, middlemen become less relevant, and smaller business operations are freer to grow unburdened, allowing wealth to emanate from more parts of the economy, ultimately ensuring a more inclusive and resilient economic ecosystem.
These benefits do not come out of nowhere; they are a result of a deliberate and strategic investment in building and nurturing strong national digital infrastructure networks. To create a truly strong foundation for an online economy, policy planners need to look past building up already overdeveloped megapolises and create new digital linkages that serve the countryside and other underserved communities. Here are 9 key ways in which businesses benefit from digital infrastructure development and well-planned digital infrastructure networks.
1) Accelerated Digital Transformation
With stronger digital networks, businesses of all sizes can more easily use technologies such as cloud computing to enhance their operation and drive innovation. We’ve already seen this scenario play out in Asian economies like China and Vietnam, where countryside digital infrastructure development has been given priority. The introduction of 4G and 5G networks in areas that previously had no broadband internet access empowered new generations of small business entrepreneurs and created digital dividends that have built real, long-lasting economic value. We’re now seeing a repeat of this pattern in other countries that are now only beginning to build their own digital infrastructure.
2) Improved Connectivity
Strong national digital infrastructure ensures fast and reliable connectivity across urban and rural areas, bridging rural-urban divides and allowing businesses to tap into new regional markets. In the Philippines, infrastructure developers such as Aboitiz InfraCapital and Partners Group are building common towers in the countryside, allowing businesses to seamlessly communicate with suppliers, employees, and customers, regardless of their geographic location. While the bulk of these improvements only occurred around the time of the 2020 pandemic, the impact has been transformative and helped the Philippine economy surge on the strength of its revitalized domestic e-commerce market.
3) Global Market Access
Businesses connected to a strong national digital infrastructure network don’t just gain access to newly connected local customers but also established global markets. With access to reliable digital networks, businesses are no longer at the mercy of middlemen when it comes to reaching overseas partners and markets, resulting in more savings and more growth for exporters. Digitally reliant businesses, such as SEO agencies, digital marketing companies, business process outsourcing companies, web development firms, and many others, will also benefit from this global reach.
4) Enhanced Data Management
Good data management is what separates successful businesses from their competitors. While good connectivity is also an important factor for better data management, more critical is the presence of a robust data center network. Local data centers provide businesses with the storage and processing capabilities needed to seamlessly run modern business applications that are enhanced by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Though these data centers could be off-shored, having them within a country’s borders helps to ensure timelier data retrieval as well as data sovereignty and compliance with local regulations.
5) Innovation Hubs
A strong digital infrastructure network fosters innovation by enabling collaboration among research institutions, universities, and businesses. This, in turn, helps encourage local research and development in value-creating products and services.
Without sufficient connectivity and data processing infrastructure, it’s essentially impossible to create a modern information ecosystem. Improving national digital infrastructure is, therefore, a crucial step for any economy that wants to promote research partnerships and facilitate the development of cutting-edge technologies within its borders.
6) Remote Work and Talent Pool Expansion
Remote work has become standard practice in recent years, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A strong national digital infrastructure network supports businesses in maintaining efficient virtual operations. This flexibility also allows companies to tap into a broader talent pool by hiring remote employees and contractors from various regions, including overseas.
7) Stronger Cybersecurity
Businesses rely on a secure digital environment to protect sensitive information and customer data. While the responsibility of protecting business data ultimately falls on individual enterprises, better national digital infrastructure and regulations may reduce the cybersecurity burden on businesses, resulting in not only safer online interactions but also more trust in the wider digital economy, resulting in more market participation as well as more stable business growth.
8) Seamless Supply Chain Management
The efficient supply chain management that makes today’s e-commerce markets possible requires reliable real-time data exchanges between different businesses and customers. Given this, economic planners who want to see an expansion of domestic digital markets or closer ties with foreign economies need to prioritize digital infrastructure development.
9) E-Government Services and Business Support
A well-connected digital infrastructure network enables governments to provide online services and support to businesses, such as digital business registrations, licenses, and permits. This streamlines administrative processes and reduces bureaucratic hurdles, ultimately permitting businesses to grow faster and more sustainably.
Properly developed national digital infrastructure networks enable fair digital transformation and, consequently, a competitive economy. Economies that have invested in building a strong digital infrastructure network early on have consistently shown improved growth and better adaptability to external shocks compared to peers that lagged behind. Fortunately, these other economies are now in a better position to transform, thanks to new technologies and the overall lower cost of new digital infrastructure. With this essential groundwork in place, we’re likely to see barriers to global entrepreneurship drop even more, resulting in a world that’s not only more prosperous but also smaller and freer than ever.