Friday, 27 May 2011

What is the economic value of the internet?

Is a question asked by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution. He is commenting on a new study of the value of the interest by McKinsey. He writes,
The study shows a few things:

1. Most of the economic benefits of the internet are in fact captured in current economic statistics, which I’ve already argued do not look so fabulous. The point is not to blame the internet, as without it things would have been worse. The point is that the internet gains, in absolute terms, haven’t been large enough to produce a rosy picture overall.

2. The direct and indirect economic effects of the internet account for 3.8% of U.S. gdp, as currently measured (p.15). That’s less than many people think and that value is already incorporated in the current gdp measure. The good news — and it is good news — is that there is lots of room for future growth from internet impact. We’ve yet to really organize our economy around the internet, as we someday will, and then the gains will be enormous. In the meantime we are waiting.

3. What about the unpriced consumer surplus gains from the internet? The study considers that too:
In general, this surplus is generated from the exceptional value users place on Internet services such as e-mail, social networks, search facilities, and online reservation services, among many others. This value far outweighs the costs, both actual costs such as access and subscription fees and annoyances such as spam, excessive advertising, and the need to disclose personal data for some services. In the United States, for example, research conducted with the Interactive Advertising Board found that consumers placed a value of almost €61 billion on the services they got from the Internet, while they would pay about €15 billion to get rid of the annoyances, suggesting a net consumer surplus of about €46 billion.
There are so many problems with the measurement of all aspects of the knowledge economy, not just the internet, - see Section 5 of this paper for a discussion of some of them - that I'm not sure what you can make of any such measurement exercise.

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