The Internet is opening up trade to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and independent artists once unable to access far-away markets.
When we think about global trade, most of us imagine container ships navigating the Panama Canal and large multinational companies with warehouses around the world. But today, almost everyone with a phone or laptop is taking part in Internet-driven trade -- from small businesses, artists, and app developers to large companies in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, and health care.
Data flowing from one country to another has grown 45 times larger since a decade ago and represents $2.8 trillion in annual trade (McKinsey Global Institute 2016). Cross-border data flows that underlie the Internet now contribute to global economic growth more than the flow of goods (MGI 2016). Trade between two countries is 25% higher if their Internet usage is high (World Bank 2016).
Small businesses that have embraced the web are 50% more likely to sell across borders (Boston Consulting Group 2014). These SMBs also bring in 2 times as much revenue through exports as a percent of total sales than other companies, and create more than 2 times as many jobs (MGI 2011).
The dramatic growth in digital trade has had enormous economic benefits for traditional industries, which gain 75 percent of the Internet’s benefits (MGI 2011). Yet there is still a long way to go. Only 22 percent of the world’s people have ever bought something online (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development 2016). Establishing strong conditions for digital trade can help drive more jobs, more exports, and other social and economic benefits.