MEASURING DIGITAL ACTIVITIES IN THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY

by Pengfei Zhao, Economic Research Hub

SUMMARY

Rapid advancements in digital technologies in recent years have transformed the ways in which households, firms and governments interact with each other. Digital activities have grown rapidly and become an important contributor to economies around the world. This dynamic shift has increased the demand for statistical insights into digital activities in Australia for analytical and policy purposes.

While the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) captures many aspects of the Australian digital economy in the National Accounts, it does not separately identify all digital activities, nor trace the estimated aggregate economic performance to its digital origins. In particular, measuring digital activities in official statistics has been challenging due to definitional, classification and measurement issues.

To guide estimation and comparability in official statistics, a framework for measuring a digital economy has been developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The framework has been partially implemented by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and Statistics New Zealand to gain insights into digital activities relative to the U.S. and New Zealand economy, respectively (Barefoot et al., 2018; Millar & Grant, 2017).

In this paper, ABS has applied the BEA approach to estimate digital activity in Australia using selected separately identifiable digital products from the ABS supply-use tables. The preliminary estimates provide insights into digital activities through a National Accounts lens. Applying the BEA approach enables Australia to engage in policy debate and international discussions of digital activities in a timely and responsive manner.

This paper outlines the ABS application of the BEA approach, and presents preliminary and experimental estimates of digital activity in Australia. The results indicate that information and telecommunication services, while representing a relatively small share of total Australian production, are an increasing driver of Australian economic growth. The paper also acknowledges the limitations of the approach and highlights areas for potential future developments.

The ABS welcomes feedback and comments on the preliminary work, which can be directed to: Lauren Ford, Director, Economic Research Section, email: prices.statistics@abs.gov.au. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

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