The Gaidar Forum: how to measure the digital economy?

How to assess the growth of the digital economy, the speakers discussed at the session "Problems and prospects of building a system for monitoring the digitalization of the Russian economy", which took place during the first day of the 11th Gaidar Forum held at the RANEPA.

Digital economy is a fairly young concept, it appeared in the mid-1990s and still does not have a clear and unambiguous definition. Seemingly terminological problem became a challenge for national economies: the existing SNA (system of national accounts) does not include a number of modern economic realities. Therefore, it is impossible to objectively evaluate the scope of the digital economy and the dynamics of its change. As a result, statistical paradoxes arise: e.g., the quality of goods and services in the information and computer technology sector is growing faster than their price, which is negatively reflected in the existing accounting system.

“If we don’t define the concept of "digital economy" as such, we won’t be able to talk about the methods for its measuring," said Alexander Abroskin, leading researcher at the RANEPA. "We have developed the following definition: an economy based on the integration of production processes, distribution, and use of Internet-based resources with the effects associated with expansion of the range and improvement of the quality of goods (services) and reduction in expenditure in the sectors of the national economy. And we offer a system of information and statistical accounting based on this understanding of the digital economy."

The leading expert of the Department of National Accounts of Rosstat Andrei Tatarinov said that in 2018 the statistical commission within the UN identified three areas for the development of an accounting methodology, in particular, they included problems of digitalization processes measuring, developing a structure of a satellite account, methods for crypto assets accounting, cost estimation of free assets, measurement of the value of goods and services affected by digitalization. "In fact, we face the same problem: how to measure something that permeates the economy through and through. This is, for example, how we could measure the electric economy at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries," the expert suggested a comparison.

"There is a problem of accounting for the value of data as an economic asset, because its role is significant and affects the results of production. For the macroeconomics, this is a relatively new area, currently only databases and the costs of making them available, but not information as such, are taken into account as assets," noted Andrey Tatarinov.

Experts agreed that it makes no sense to single out the digital economy as a special industry: in one way or another, it affects all areas of production, and deep digitalization is inevitable. At the same time, the gap between leading companies and those lagging behind is growing enormously. Answering the question of how soon will new assessment methods be developed, experts noted that this problem is unlikely to be solved "tomorrow" – due to the fact that the digital economy affects all spheres of the life of modern society.

In addition, according to Bill Thompson, Head of the Eurasia Division in the OECD Global Relations Secretariat, even in advanced countries there is a huge problem – digitalization of the public sector, "We poorly understand how digitalization affects the quality of public services and the efficiency of the state authorities." At the end of the discussion, the expert expressed confidence that, with the growth of digitalization, accounting specialists will have something to do, "The challenge for statisticians is not measuring the digital economy itself, but economic activity in the context of digitalization. This is a big headache for us, but at least unemployment does not threaten us."


Information

The 11th Gaidar Forum “Russia and the World: Challenges of the New Decade” is being held at RANEPA on January 15 and 16, 2020. The forum is focused on the goals of national and global development and the search for practical answers to the most pressing challenges of our time.   The forum is attended by ministers of the Government of the Russian Federation, members of the Federal Assembly, governors of the Russian regions, prominent international experts, and representatives of foreign states.

The organizers of the 11th Gaidar Forum are the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, and the Association of Innovative Regions of Russia.

The title partners of the Gaidar Forum are PJSC Gazprom and JSC Gazprombank. The strategic partners are Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Russian Railways, Pharmstandard group of companies, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Novartis group of companies, MSD, AKIG group of companies, EF Education First. Partners are Prosveshchenie group of companies, EY, Huawei, RVC JSC, Russian Agricultural Bank JSC.

The title information partners of the Gaidar Forum are the Russia-24 TV channel, TASS, RBC, Business FM. The strategic information partners are Kommersant Publishing House, Interfax, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Invest-Forsythe magazine, Federal Press Agency. The main information partners are Anews.com, Gazeta.Ru, Lenta.Ru, News.ru, Profile. International partners are RT, ThomsonReuters, Sputnik, EFE, Cision, Pan Pacific Agency. Information partners are Snob media project, AEI PRIME, RNS, Expert magazine, Parlamentskaya Gazeta, Polit.ru, Ekho Moskvy radio station, PRO Business TV channel, FINAM.RU information and analytical agency, Davydov.Index, Strategiya magazine, Ekonomika i Zhizn newspaper, Econs portal, Gosudarstvennaya Sluzhba magazine, TV BRICS.