How digital world is disrupting GDP calculations?

Diane Coyle has a piece on the topic:

Digital technologies are having dramatic impacts on consumers, businesses, and markets. These developments have reignited the debate over the definition and measurement of common economic statistics such as GDP. This column examines the measurement challenges posed by digital innovation on the economic landscape. It shows how existing approaches are unable to capture certain elements of the consumer surplus created by digital innovation. It further demonstrates how they can misrepresent market-level shifts, leading to false assessments of production and growth.

Some examples of this:

Digital technologies, like any innovation, clearly create consumer surplus. Hedonic pricing techniques capture some quality improvements, but it seems unlikely they can ever fully reflect large qualitative changes in human possibilities or well-being due to such major innovations. It is clear that there is additional consumer surplus associated with developments such as the wider choice available through online marketplaces, or the time saved by using online services, or from zero price and voluntarily-produced online products and services. For example, somebody who uses an online platform to swap homes for a holiday might well spend the money they save on other goods and services that are captured in measured GDP, but the benefit of their ‘free’ holiday is not. It is not clear how to assess the scale of this digital surplus.

What’s more, the impact of digitally business on measured GDP by current definitions reveals some oddities. For example, the disintermediation and move to online provision in several sectors such as finance, travel, and retailing is reducing GDP as investment in commercial property declines, but the service provided to consumers is clearly the same or better. Figure 1 shows the decline in constant value investment in just two sectors in the UK, retailing and finance, taking their share of total gross domestic fixed capital formation in buildings from 17% in 1997 to 4% in 2014 (investment in buildings has typically been in the range of a fifth to a quarter of total business investment over this period.)

Hmm.. There is more in the post.

This is all interesting stuff to ponder upon. We could actually see a world where GDP does not show much progress or a decline but people are overall fine/happy..

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