Executive summary

The introduction to this handbook discusses the recent growth of the digital economy, with producers increasingly using digital technology to revolutionise their production processes, and with new business models being created based on the digital transformation. To improve the visibility of digitalisation in macroeconomic statistics, the Digital Supply and Use Tables (SUTs) framework has been developed under the auspices of the Informal Advisory Group (IAG) on Measuring GDP in a Digitalised Economy, a body established by the OECD in 2017. The Digital SUTs framework builds on existing work to measure digitalisation and is consistent with the System of National Accounts (SNA), taking as its starting point the conventional SUTs in the SNA. The proposal to include the Digital SUT framework presented in this handbook as a supplementary table in the 2025 update of the SNA was endorsed by the SNA update process in November 2021.

Definitions of the digital economy remain under discussion. The Digital SUTs framework allows for flexibility with regard to definitions and multiple perspectives, reflecting the view of the IAG on Measuring GDP in a Digitalised Economy that the digital economy is a multidimensional phenomenon. The framework aims to generate a range of outputs providing information on different perspectives. Although the starting point for the Digital SUTs is the conventional SUTs, in the Digital SUTs three dimensions are introduced for measuring the digital economy: the nature of the transaction (the “how”), the goods and services produced (the “what”), and the new digital industries (the “who”). These lead to additional rows and columns within the Digital SUTs compared with the conventional SUTs. There is also a selection of high priority indicators that countries are encouraged to compile.

The first dimension of measurement of the digital economy, the nature of the transaction, is a fundamental element of the Digital SUTs framework. As digitalisation has led to a rapid expansion of digital ordering and digital delivery, including for non-digital products, it is increasingly important to identify the digital nature of transactions. Within the Digital SUTs framework, a product can either be digitally ordered or non-digitally ordered, with a further breakdown of digitally ordered into whether it is ordered directly from the counterparty (producer) or via a Digital Intermediation Platform (DIP). This requires clear definitions and a structure for different types of digital ordering and delivery. Consistency with the framework for measuring digital trade is also important, and this handbook refers frequently to the recently updated Handbook on Measuring Digital Trade. The discussion covers examples of data sources used by compilers to produce the estimates and the specific challenge of dealing with digitally ordered retail margins.

The second dimension of the Digital SUTs framework is the product perspective. In the conventional SUTs, digital products may be recorded in many product rows that also include non-digital products. In the Digital SUTs, digital products are aggregated and shown separately in two rows: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) goods and digital services. Estimates for the production and final demand of ICT goods and digital services illustrate how digitalisation is changing production processes and consumption habits. In addition, two products of considerable policy interest are shown separately: cloud computing services (CCS) and digital intermediation services (DIS). Compiling estimates for ICT goods and digital services is relatively straightforward, while for CCS and DIS there are greater challenges. The resulting aggregates of digital products can be shown as proportions of both the supply table (output, imports) and the use table (e.g. household consumption, capital formation, intermediate consumption), providing a comprehensive view of the importance of digital products to the economy.

The Digital SUTs identify seven new “digital industries”, which are shown in separate columns to give visibility to digital activities that are not visible in the conventional SUTs. These seven new industries are: The digitally enabling industry; DIPs charging a fee; data- and advertising-driven digital platforms; producers dependent on DIPs; e-tailers; financial service providers predominantly operating digitally; and other producers only operating digitally. These digital industries reflect how producers utilise digital technologies rather than the fundamental type of economic activity undertaken. Separating out firms and other producers into the new digital industries provides important perspectives on the amount of output, value added, compensation of employees and employment being provided by industries that are reliant on digitalisation. Countries have so far produced estimates for the new digital industries using two different approaches. One attempts to identify specific units and reallocate them to the new digital industries, while the other uses indicators to derive an aggregate estimate of output, intermediate consumption and value added being produced by the new digital industry.

In recent years, several countries have produced estimates consistent with the Digital SUTs framework, with early outputs focusing on the agreed high priority indicators:

  • Expenditure split by nature of the transaction

  • Output and/or intermediate consumption of total ICT goods and digital services, CCS and DIS

  • Digital industries’ output, gross value added and its components

The Digital SUTs framework includes recommended templates for the outputs, which are included in this handbook. These templates will help countries to produce outputs in a consistent manner, improving the visibility of digital activity within their national accounts while also enabling their results to be compared with those of other countries. Initial outputs consistent with the Digital SUT framework have already been created by several countries. The non-prescriptive nature of the Digital SUTs framework (where estimates can be published if the data is available but compilers can choose not to publish results for which they lack data or have quality concerns) will help countries to make progress and publish results, even if they are “experimental”.


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