The web of global economic connections is growing deeper, broader, and more intricate. Yet much of the public discussion surrounding globalization is stuck on the narrow topic of trade surpluses and deficits. This lens fails to take into account the new and more complex reality of a digitally connected global economy. While the global goods trade and financial flows have flattened since the Great Recession, cross-border flows of data are surging. They now tie the world economy together just as surely as flows of traditional manufactured goods.
Today’s more digital form of globalization is changing who is participating, how business is done across borders, how rapidly competition moves, and where the economic benefits are flowing. Even though advanced economies in general continue to be the leaders in most flows, the door has opened to more countries, to small companies and startups, and to billions of individuals. Our previous research found the biggest benefits of trade flows go to countries at the center of the global network. Interestingly, this report finds that countries at the periphery of the network of data flows stand to gain even more than those at the center. The convergence of globalization and digitization means that business leaders and policy makers will need to reassess their strategies—and given that we are only in the very early stages of this phenomenon, enormous opportunities are still at stake.
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