Measuring the Value of Free

LONDON – Reliable economic statistics are a vital public good. They are essential to effective policymaking, business planning, and the electorate’s ability to hold decision-makers to account.

And yet the methods we use to measure our economies are becoming increasingly out of date. The statistical conventions on which we base our estimates were adopted a half-century ago, at a time when the economy was producing relatively similar physical goods. Today’s economy is radically different and changing rapidly – the result of technological innovation, the rising value of intangible, knowledge-based assets, and the internationalization of economic activity.

In light of these challenges, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne asked me ten months ago to assess the United Kingdom’s current and future statistical needs. While my research focused on the UK, the challenges of producing relevant, high-quality economic statistics are the same in many countries.

Recent technological advances have radically altered the way people conduct their lives, both at work and at play. The advances in computing power underpinning the digital revolution have led not only to rapid quality improvements and product innovation, but also to new, connectivity-driven ways of exchanging and providing services.