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Why (Almost) Everything You Hear About the Digital Economy Is Wrong

Editorial by GCSP Associate Fellow Nick Ashton-Hart

When most people think of the Internet they think of what they use—search engines, social media, online and streamed video and audio services, and email. 

This is undoubtedly a big part of the reason why policymakers think that the digital economy is dominated by these “business-to-consumer” services.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, business-to-business digital commerce is ten times the size of the business-to-consumer space according to the UN Commission on Trade and Development’s Information Economy Report 2015. Seventy-five percent of the economic value of the digital economy goes to traditional bricks and mortar businesses and not Internet companies. This is true worldwide, not just in developed economies.

I’m a proud European so allow me to focus on the tragic discussion of the Internet economy in Europe, where policymakers obsess over the activities of a handful of U.S. multinationals instead of focusing on what really matters. According to the OECD, the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, while growing rapidly, only employs three percent of Europeans. Small to medium sized enterprises are critical to every economy and account for more than ninety-nine percent of all businesses in many developed and developing countries and are the primary source of GDP growth and employment—not multinationals.


Read more on the Council on Foreign Relations' Net Politics Blog



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