It is probably fair to say that most people would agree with the statement that the Internet has strongly transformed the ways people interact with each other in the cultural, economic, private, and social contexts. Given the comparatively young age of the Internet, at least in commercial terms as most people know it, it is far less clear how big the economic value of the ‘Internet economy’ is and who stands to benefit most from it. To shed some light on these questions, our new booklet “The Internet: the enabling force of the 21st century” compiles the results of publicly available studies on the economic weight of the Internet and features case studies illustrating the various ways the Internet acts as the enabling force for SMEs, consumers, new businesses and citizens at large.

If there was one finding to stand out, it would be the following: economic growth and social change are not primarily driven by Internet companies, rather by every business and citizen using the services that run over the Internet. In concrete numbers, the often cited McKinsey economic study noted that 75% of the Internet’s benefits arises from traditional companies that don’t define themselves as pure Internet players. There are further impressive numbers:

  • Between 2010 and 2016 the Internet economy of the G-20 will nearly double to reach a value of $4.2 trillion and by 2016 will add 32 million jobs
  • In these markets the Internet economy will grow at an annual rate of 8% – one of the fastest growing sectors
  • The Internet economy will account for an average 5.7% of EU GDP by 2016 with the UK at 12.4%
  • 97% of commercial sellers using ecommerce platforms export
  • G-20 consumers researched online and then purchased offline more than $1.3 trillion in goods in 2010 – that is 7.8% of all consumer spending
  • In 2013 529,000 people in full-time employment are directly linked to the app economy across Europe, including 330,000 app developers

Behind these numbers there are businesses and citizens taking advantage of the Internet. By using online selling platforms retailers like ‘Blue Water Sport’ in the UK export to 88 countries, the company is only five years old; thanks to the online employment app ‘Work for Us’, the ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ spent not even a tenth of what it normally spends for hiring staff in its Florence restaurant, based on people’s Facebook ‘Likes’ of Rock and Roll; SMEs use online accountancy software to run their business more efficiently and reduce administrative burden; 95% of the customers of Polish antiques seller ‘Nasze Antyki’ found the company through online advertising campaigns. These are just some examples featured in our booklet.

Particularly in light of the first ‘Digital European Summit’ taking place in Brussels this week we hope that our work will illustrate the need for policies in Europe that allow the Internet to thrive for the millions of traditional businesses and consumers who rely on its enabling force.

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