No one could have predicted how COVID-19 would reshape the way we live, work and connect. Although the pandemic disrupted our lives, it also increased demand for tech innovations, propelling us towards streaming entertainment, remote working, telehealth, and leading to a boon in consumer tech purchases.
The COVID-19 vaccine was made possible by CTA Digital Patriot Congressman Fred Upton who championed the 21st Century Cures Act. The Act authorized vaccine makers to produce, and the government to pre-order, vaccines before FDA approval. Combined with Operation Warp Speed, this legislation delivered vaccines just a year after the first COVID-19 cases were diagnosed. Today, many Americans have returned to offices and are traveling again. This legislation also fueled an economic rebound with low interest rates, record-breaking stock markets and government largesse that pumped liquidity into markets.
While there is progress in some areas, there are challenges in others, such as with chip shortages, supply chain disruptions, shipping container scarcity, worker shortages, factory shutdowns in Asia and shifting customer demand along with continued tariffs that make planning difficult for businesses. And with the uncertainty with the war in Ukraine, it’s easy to understand why executives are stressed.
We also are seeing double-digit price jumps in gas, lumber and food due to inflation that slows economies and devalues currencies. Inflation has two cures: higher interest rates and greater productivity. High interest rates cut inflation by blunting demand and, thus, pricing pressure. The other inflation cure is greater productivity, and this is where our industry shines. We fuel remote work, telemedicine, remote diagnostics and new productivity tools including Zoom, Teams, Salesforce and Slack. Plus, robotics, self-driving vehicles, IoT, 5G and smart cities will provide greater efficiencies and enhance productivity.
Technology is providing solutions to global challenges in healthcare, education, communication, mobility, equity, climate change and clean water – and is poised to do even more.
Although technology is valuable in bringing us together virtually while in remote locations, the importance of in-person events has been reinforced during the pandemic. Due to vaccines, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, was one of the first associations to host live, face-to-face business events in Amsterdam, Paris, New York and Washington, DC in the fall of 2021. Each event was different but attendees shared an enthusiasm for coming together with people passionate about innovation.
As we prepared to return to Las Vegas for the first in-person CES in two years, we established strong health protocols including a vaccination requirement, mandatory masks and free Abbott BiNAX Now rapid tests for attendees. We also shortened the show by a day to further reduce the risk of COVID transmission. The Business Travel Association praised CES as “a model for how business trade events can and should take place in 2022,” and encouraged other professional event organizers to follow our lead.
CES 2022 was unlike any show we’ve hosted in our 55-year history. After an all-digital show in 2021, CES 2022 was a hybrid show with a physical and digital presence enabling the industry to make global connections and build crucial business relationships. Global attendees learned about 5G, AI, self-driving vehicles and new forms of mobility, telehealth, resilience, robotics, drones, 8K Ultra HD screens and smart TVs. Also on display were the foundational technologies being used to build the metaverse(s) to provide immersive experiences blending the virtual and physical worlds.
Big policy issues involving privacy, competition and the regulation of new technologies and media platforms were discussed. Indeed, members of Congress from both parties attended and spoke at CES, including a record number of sitting U.S. Senators. Our tech policy panel featured Senators Jacky Rosen, Shelley Moore Capito, Marsha Blackburn, Susan Collins, and Maria Cantwell.
The U.S. consumer technology industry is poised for record growth and projected to generate over $505 billion in retail sales revenue for the first time according to CTA’s U.S. Consumer Technology One-Year Industry Forecast.
The projection represents a 2.8% revenue increase from 2021’s impressive 9.6% growth over 2020, driven by strong demand for smartphones, automotive tech, health devices and streaming services.
Tech companies are making the world a better place helping global citizens stay connected, informed, educated and healthy. Accessibility technology offers life-changing benefits for elderly people and those living with disabilities. Our industry is working to solve the world’s biggest problems – sustainability, accessibility, equity and other critical issues.
Although COVID will be a major marker in our lives, telework, telemedicine and tele-education have kept us moving forward. Digital platforms empower Americans to stay productive at work, educate our children, connect with loved ones, access medical care and stock our kitchens. Tech is a tool that allows us to be more productive, efficient and connected.
CTA works with policymakers on issues including connectivity, immigration, self-driving vehicles, trade and free online speech. The tech industry is making headway on climate change and reducing its environmental footprint. CTA’s third annual 2021 Industry Report on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions, highlights the accomplishments of member companies in reducing GHG emissions year-over-year — both globally and in the U.S.
During the pandemic, we learned that fast broadband to the home is now a necessity. Essentially, every major challenge we face — from improving the education system to creating jobs to expanding access to health care — requires broadband access. Simply put, it is difficult to be a productive member of society without broadband. We urge the federal government to expand broadband by deployment of new spectrum, removal of obstacles to 5G hardware installation, and support for new technologies like whitespaces and low-earth satellites.
As we emerge from one of the most challenging periods in U.S. history, our industry is working to fend off regulatory overreach as tech companies face increased criticism by government. Attacks range from questioning technology’s benefit in society to accusations of monopolistic behavior. Short-sighted legislative proposals include limits on acquisitions of smaller companies and bans on platforms selling their own products. Some legislators even want to break up leading tech companies that are the crown jewels of our economy. These proposals, if passed, would hurt our tech leadership, thwart innovation, limit consumer choice and ravage the savings of many Americans. Moreover, they would cut investments and threaten startups looking for investors.
The tech industry does not oppose regulation. However, as Congress considers legislation related to these critical tech issues, lawmakers must consider whether a bill enhances U.S. innovation; encourages investment in startups and small businesses; is forwardlooking; promotes clarity and provides rational and clear guardrails within which companies can operate; and makes U.S. companies more competitive globally. Policy makers should enable us to keep up with the rate and pace of innovation.
As the U.S. recovers from the pandemic’s high unemployment, apprenticeship training can revitalize our workforce by offering in-demand skills. CTA and IBM created the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition, a collaborative effort by CTA member companies to create apprenticeship opportunities nationwide. Most technology companies (92%) say providing flexible work arrangements is important to retain employees, according to CTA’s recent Future of Work study. The survey also shows tech companies are embracing diversity and inclusion initiatives. And CTA’s 21st Century Workforce Council shares best practices for attracting talent and shaping a productive work environment.
We value immigration and diversity as important to American competitiveness and have advocated on the Hill in support of immigration reform to protect dreamers and remove artificial caps on high-skilled visas. We believe diverse voices are critical to create a vibrant ecosystem which is why we made a $10 million commitment to invest in funds that support underrepresented entrepreneurs and advocate on behalf of apprenticeship and skills training efforts. CTA also supports funding STEM opportunities through the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Technology is helping us tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges – offering solutions to everything from climate change to food safety. Along the way, it’s opening the door to broader participation in our societies from millions of people increasing our capacity to innovate and making our world a better place. In fact, a record formation of new businesses in the U.S. – up by an incredible one million in 2021 – coupled with the rapid growth of startup tech companies indicates the American innovation ecosystem is thriving.
From AI and digital health to transportation and smart cities, tech innovations are helping us tap into the ingenuity of humankind to make our world healthier and more accessible for people worldwide.
As technology continues to transform industries and businesses, consumers’ lives are enriched with enhanced safety, efficiency and an expanding array of choices. And it is entrepreneurs and a diverse workforce with an innovative mindset that are driving this new surge of technology, products, services and apps.
Senior Vice President
President and CEO
Consumer Technology Association