Measuring how much the Internet is worth: $8 trillion?

A recent report by McKinsey puts the value of the Internet at $8 trillion. Here are a few other fun facts:

There is a lot of Internet to measure, with two billion global consumers and $8 trillion in total revenue. So McKinsey’s report limited its scope to the online economy in the G-8 countries plus five more: Brazil, China, India, South Korea and Brazil. It defined Internet activities as private consumption (electronic equipment, e-commerce, broadband subscriptions, mobile Internet, and hardware and software consumption); private investment (from the telecommunications industry and the maintenance of extranet, intranet, and Web sites); public expenditure (spending and buying by government in software hardware and services); and trade (which accounts for exports of Internet equipment plus business-to-business services with overseas companies)…

As an industry, the Internet contributes more to the typical developed economy than mining, utilities, agriculture, or education. In Sweden, fully one-third of economic growth in the five years leading up to the recession came from Internet activities. For the entire G-8, the average was 21 percent. In an analysis of France since the mid-1990s, McKinsey found that the Internet created more than twice the number of jobs it destroyed.

Much of the Internet’s contribution to our lives is nearly impossible to measure. For example, I use email. How much is that worth to me? I can’t even begin to say. I read hundreds of news sources a day. What is that worth to me, or to the news organizations? Pricing this kind of thing is exhausting to think about. But since analyzing what the rest of us find “exhausting to think about” is McKinsey’s job, their researchers looked at the “consumer surplus” of the Internet, concluding that the total annual benefit to the United States comes out to $64 billion…

The United States is the world leader in the online industry, grabbing 30 percent of global Internet revenues. But the UK is the world leader in online retail. The British spent $2,535 on e-stuff in 2009, more than twice the average of the world’s largest countries and still 1.4 times the amount of the typical U.S. shopper. Sweden leads the world in Internet’s contribution to GDP. Fully 6.3 of the country’s economy is online — twice Germany, France or India. In Russia, the Internet contributes not even one percent of GDP.

Some interesting stuff here:

1. I appreciate the emphasis on the difficulty of measuring this topic. In addition to simply thinking about the economic benefits, we could spend a lot of time discussing how it has altered social interaction, private practices, and democracy. I wonder what the margin of error is on the estimates.

2. There is some indication of the splits between the Internet haves and have-nots. If the Internet is so valuable, should this be a leading component of aid to poorer countries? It does require a decent investment in infrastructure but it would allow people to easily connect to first-world countries and industries. For example, what is the impact of the less than $100 laptop that was touted for years?

3. With all of this money (and value floating around), it is a reminder why so many states want to get their hands on sales tax revenues from Internet sales. Do European countries like Britain have a similar system? I have bought a few things from in the past and I don’t recall the experience being much different.

4. I would be interested to know the future prospects for the Internet’s growth: how quickly will it grow? How much will it expand? Is most of the growth within developed countries or in opening or expanding newer markets (China and India plus others)?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s