The World Wide Web Foundation published its first Web Index last week, which it describes as “the world’s first multi-dimensional measure of the Web’s growth, utility and impact on people and nations.”
In its full report (PDF, oh! the irony), it writes
We believe that if access to the Web increases dramatically, there will be significant social development and greater political representation among the billions of people who currently have no voice.
I believe that too. But does the web actually bring about any tangible, measurable economic benefits?
While I was writing an article called Educating Bangladeshi schoolkids about the Web, I discovered some research called Internet matters: The Net’s sweeping impact on growth, jobs, and prosperity (PDF). It’s by the McKinsey Global Institute, about which I know nothing, but it descibes itself as “a global management consulting firm… the trusted advisor to the world’s leading businesses, governments” so I’d hazard a guess they’re not dreamy-eyed idealists given to singing “Imagine” on acoustic guitar at Burning Man festival.
The report (which is well worth reading) suggests:
- The Internet contributes 3.4 percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaged over the 13 countries covered by the report (21% of GDP growth for the most developed countries)
- Most of the economic value created by the Internet falls outside of the technology sector, with 75 percent of the benefits captured by companies in more traditional industries
- The Internet creates 2.6 jobs for each lost to technology-related efficiencies
- There’s a 10% increase in productivity for Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from Internet use
- SMEs heavily using Web technology grow and export twice as much as others
an increase in Internet maturity similar to the one experienced in mature countries over the past 5 years creates an increase in real GDP per capita of $500 on average during this period. It took the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century 50 years to produce the same result.
Nice to have some numbers to remind us why we need a world-wide web, based on open standards rather than device-specific walled gardens of content. Imagine all the people, living life in peace.