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Measuring the Value of Technology


The high-speed Internet has unleashed innumerable benefits to American life. But measuring those benefits is still a challenge.  A recent New York Times article looks at the issue, and finds that traditional metrics are lacking.

For instance, as newspapers reinvent themselves in the digital age, the Internet is dramatically expanding readership. The New York Times never had 44 million unique U.S. viewers each month until the newspaper went digital. Yet, our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) does not reflect this advancement in journalism. Nor does the GDP reflect the unprecedented access today's consumers have to music, showing instead a declining recording industry.

The article also underscores the incredible access to information the Internet has brought users – and how we save time as a result.  One study shows that people who used search engines shaved 15 minutes off the time to answer a question compared to those who didn't have access to broadband.  Multiply that by the average wage of $22 to calculate time saved, and a search engine is valued at $500 annually per average worker, or $65 billion for the working population over a single year.

The framework of our nation’s GDP is currently under revision with the goal of better quantifying contributions including investment and innovation. From time saved to improved offerings and value, the Internet is delivering rewards for business and consumers – whether they’re accurately reflected by the numbers or not.

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