App development is not an industry that gets a lot of recognition for the value that it brings to businesses, consumers and the economy. It’s certainly not ignored, but it doesn’t necessarily get the credit or the recognition that it deserves and is often misunderstood. For every Angry Birds application that now exists in our lexicon, there is an unknown diabetes app that is helping make patients lives more manageable without any expectation of fanfare.
I spent three days in April in Washington, D.C. for ACT | The App Association’s App Economy Conference. There, I was part of a select group of tech executives from across the country to network, learn and engage elected officials on the most pressing issues facing the internet economy today.
The app economy is over $120 billion strong and growing with nearly 4 million available apps. The industry is continually expanding as more and more of our interactions and experiences are taking place on smaller screens and on the go.
In addition to the economic growth there is also regional growth. More than 80 percent of the top app companies are running their businesses outside of Silicon Valley. This was evident by the executives I met from Florida, Oregon and Iowa who had the same views on the issues that are impacting our companies as those from New York, Chicago, D.C. and California.
App development and the companies behind this industry are clearly growing, but do our representatives or the public realize it impacts their constituents and neighbors? Issues that impact developers are generally considered battles reserved for the tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft.
ACT is making sure that developers’ voices are heard and that policymakers and elected officials hear their stories. The organization strives to help Washington understand that their decisions don’t just impact the giant names in technology, but also the 82 percent of the top app companies that are small companies.
Thanks to the policy insight and background information from ACT during the conference, I was prepared to go meet with the offices of Senators and Representatives on how these issues impact their constituents and companies working in and with their states. I was able to speak about how encryption protects businesses and individuals. How small companies look to app and technology firms to have their best interests at heart. That back doors and forced implementation will affect companies of all sizes and isn’t just a fight by the giants.
I talked about not knowing that there was an AP Computer Science exam before this trip and that more students take AP Latin than Computer Science. My kids are growing up expecting technology to have all this amazing content and interactivity, but their schools aren’t teaching the critical thinking or problem solving that is at the heart of the computer science that makes that device work.
My hope is that the conversations and information were as enlightening and interesting for the staff members, Senators, Representatives and committee chairs that heard our stories as it was for me.
During my time in D.C., I was part of a conversation with United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, one of Fortune Magazine’s Greatest Leaders, which was hosted at Microsoft’s Innovation and Policy Center. Both Georgia Senators’ offices found time to sit down with us and listen with open ears about our concerns. They explained that they rely on companies like development firms to share opinions because our politicians can’t inherently know everything about every industry.
I shook hands with Congressmen Doug Collins and Barry Loudermilk, who both made sure that they introduced themselves even though they couldn’t meet with us. I also met with the staff of Congressman John Lewis, who was one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and has represented Atlanta since his election to Congress in 1986.
I was lucky enough to be exposed to a lot of information, experiences and people that made the entire trip extremely rewarding and has me looking forward to next year and wanting to do more to support the work of ACT.
Learn more about what’s going on in this industry and what policies will touch all of us.