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Measuring GDP in a Digitalised Economy


  • Nadim Ahmad
  • Paul Schreyer


Recent years have seen a rapid emergence of new disruptive technologies with new forms of intermediation, service provision and consumption, with digitalisation being a common characteristic. These include new platforms that facilitate Peer-to-Peer transactions, such as AirBnB and Uber, new activities such as crowd sourcing, a growing category of the ‘occasional self-employed’ and prevalence of ‘free’ media services, funded by advertising and ‘Big data’. Against a backdrop of slowing rates of measured productivity growth, this has raised questions about the conceptual basis of GDP and output, and whether current compilation methods are adequate to capture them. This paper frames the discussion under an umbrella of the Digitalised Economy, covering also statistical challenges where digitalisation is a complicating feature such as international transactions and knowledge based assets. It delineates between conceptual and compilation issues and highlights areas where further investigations are merited. The overall conclusion is that, on balance, the accounting framework for GDP looks to be up to the challenges posed by digitalisation. Many practical measurement issues remain, however, in particular concerning price changes and where digitalisation meets internationalisation. Les dernières années ont été marquées par l’apparition de nouvelles technologies de rupture, donnant lieu à de nouvelles formes d’intermédiation, de fourniture de services et de consommation. La caractéristique commune de ces activités est la numérisation. Elles incluent de nouveaux sites web facilitant les transactions entre particuliers comme AirBnB et Uber, de nouvelles activités telles que la production participative (crowdsourcing), une catégorie croissante de ‘travailleurs indépendants occasionnels’ et la prévalence de services de média ‘gratuit’ mais financés par la publicité et par les mégadonnées (Big Data). Dans un contexte de ralentissement des taux de croissance de la productivité mesurée, la question a été évoquée de savoir si les fondements conceptuels du PIB et de la production étaient encore valables et si les pratiques de collecte de données restaient adéquates pour mesurer ces nouvelles activités. Ce document présente cette question sous l’angle de l’économie numérisée tout en évoquant d’autres défis statistiques liés à la numérisation, telles que les transactions internationales et les actifs de la connaissance. Ce papier établit la distinction entre les problèmes conceptuels et les problèmes de collecte et identifie les domaines nécessitants davantage de travaux. La conclusion générale est que, tout compte fait, le cadre comptable du PIB semble être à la hauteur des défis posés par la numérisation. De nombreuses questions demeurent pourtant sur les mesures pratiques, en particulier concernant les mesures de variation des prix et dans les domaines statistiques où la numérisation s’inscrit dans un contexte international.

Suggested Citation

  • Nadim Ahmad & Paul Schreyer, 2016. "Measuring GDP in a Digitalised Economy," OECD Statistics Working Papers 2016/7, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:stdaaa:2016/7-en

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