Measuring the Electronic Economy: Current Status and Next Steps
The recent growth of consumer retailing over the Internet draws attention to the electronic economy. However, businesses also conduct other business processes over computer networks, and many have been doing so for some time. Uses of computer networks attract attention because of assertions that they lead to new products and services, new delivery methods, streamlined or re-engineered business processes, new business structures, and enhanced business performance. These changes, in turn, potentially affect the performance of the entire economy, including economic growth, productivity, prices, employment, trade, and the structures of businesses, regions, and markets. Evaluating these assertions, and their effects on economic performance, requires solid statistical information about the electronic economy. This paper develops principles for identifying information critical to measuring the size and evaluating the potential effects of the electronic economy, relates that information to current data collection programs, and notes relevant measurement issues. Some of the required information about the electronic economy can be collected by adding questions to existing surveys, making the scope of existing surveys consistent, or developing new surveys. However, many key pieces of information pose significant challenges to economic measurement. While some of those challenges are specific to the electronic economy, others are long-standing ones. Interest in the electronic economy highlights the importance of continuing attempts to address these challenges. Improving and enhancing the statistical system to provide information about the electronic economy, therefore, would also substantially improve the baseline information available for evaluating the performance of the entire economy.
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