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Ga’s digital resilience will pay off now and in the future




National surveys show that almost one in four small business owners say that within two months, it may be necessary to close their doors permanently.

With consumers safe and supply chains hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the entrepreneurs who create the majority of all new American jobs lack the money to pay their rent and keep their workers intact until daily life returns to normal.

But in the midst of this sobering news, the tech sector has seized the moment to show that it is now essential to the continuity of our economy, from job creation to connecting employers to their hands -work and creation of new marketing tools for small businesses.

Georgia’s tech sector has not avoided economic spinoffs, but has shown resilience.

At the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), we have seen growth in online commerce, with more and more small business owners turning to digital platforms to stay in touch with their customers, staff and communities. We are also seeing growth in financial technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, telehealth and logistics among our 30,000 or more members across the state.

Tech companies are taking advantage of the paycheck protection program – suggesting they keep employees on their payroll, while putting fewer workers on unemployment insurance. And technology is helping to keep many parts of our economy on track with innovations that we never thought possible.

Likewise, the United States is ahead of the curve thanks to the leadership of technological titans like Google, Microsoft and Facebook. Their teams had the resources and scope to quickly extend the availability of tools like videoconferencing to millions of new users in a matter of days. Businesses have expanded their broadband capacity to meet the needs caused by the large increase in the number of people working from home as we move in.

In response to the pandemic, these digital leaders are attacking in a big way. Facebook has made it easier for businesses to host virtual events on Instagram. Zoom and Microsoft have rolled out free offers to help businesses stay in touch with their employees and customers. Google has launched a remote work resource center and other resources for small and medium businesses affected by COVID-19. We are seeing digital storefronts open for mom and pop stores that may never have considered e-commerce as a serious growth strategy.

As a result, we have condensed a decade of progress in the space of a few weeks. And Georgia is at the forefront of the new digital economy. Google alone has more than 350 employees in Georgia, with offices in Atlanta and Austell, and a data center in Douglas County. The company is also opening offices in Midtown, which will accelerate the growth of our state’s technology jobs.

TAG is working with local technology companies, large and small, to help the State of Georgia develop applications that will connect Georgians to the services they need, from food to mental health services and many more. And tech companies across the country are joining forces in a race to find solutions that will help contain the spread of COVID-19.

The technology sector is proving that, in difficult times, it is now crucial for the functioning of our society as a whole, while providing stable employment to individuals with the right skills.

In the short term, the industry will certainly not create jobs as fast as it did a few months ago. We can expect a drop in venture capital that is fueling the startups we rely on for the brilliant breakthroughs of the future. Even large publicly traded companies will face wage pressures amid declining revenues. Meanwhile, at TAG, we connect employers and job seekers to ensure that the pool of high-paying and well-paying jobs in Georgia’s technology sector remains solid.

In the long run, the demand for these job skills is likely to rebound faster and increase more strongly than in other industries. We know public resources will be reduced during this recession, but continued investment in the development of this workforce will pay dividends now and in the distant future.

The hard work, investments and innovation that we have invested in technology are paying off for us today as we telework at home, broadcast entertainment and provide digital tools for small businesses to connect with their customers. Let us take advantage of this, even if we are working together to find solutions to overcome this pandemic.

Larry K. Williams is the President and CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia.

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