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  • A new study by MIT researchers puts a dollar value on all those free digital goods people use, and builds the case that online activity can and should become part of GDP some day.

    A new study by MIT researchers puts a dollar value on all those free digital goods people use, and builds the case that online activity can and should become part of GDP some day.

    Image: Christine Daniloff, MIT

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Facebook is free, but should it count toward GDP anyway?

A new study by MIT researchers puts a dollar value on all those free digital goods people use, and builds the case that online activity can and should become part of GDP some day.

Study measures how much free online goods are worth to consumers.


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几十年来,国内生产总值(GDP),购买商品的价值的总和,一直是经济活动的无处不在的标准。最近,一些观察家认为,GDP,因为它不包括免费的在线商品,如社交媒体,搜索引擎,地图,视频和更多的价值达不到。

A new study by MIT researchers puts a dollar value on all those free digital goods people use, and builds the case that online activity can and should become part of GDP some day.

例如,Facebook的价值约40月产量为美国$ 50 $消费者,根据一系列调查的研究人员进行。在欧洲,手机数字地图以每月59欧元(目前约为67 $)的重视。和自由通讯工具WhatsApp的,使用最广泛的是在美国境外,是值得每月高达536欧元($ 611),调查显示。 

“The magnitude of the numbers was really striking,” says Avinash Collis, a doctoral candidate in information technologies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, who helped develop the new study.

Or, as the scholars write in a new paper summarizing the results, “digital goods have created large gains in well-being that are not reflected in conventional measures of GDP and productivity.”

The paper, “Using massive online choice experiments to measure changes in well-being,” appears today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to Collis, the authors are Erik Brynjolfsson, the Schussel Family Professor of Management at MIT Sloan, and Felix Eggers, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Gronigen in the Netherlands.

Ask the people what they want

进行这项研究中,研究人员使用了三个大型的网上调查中,消费者被要求把价格标签上所消耗的免费在线服务。在许多情况下,受访者被问及他们是否会喜欢使用一个免费的在线很好的保持,或命名,将弥补失去该产品接入的价格。总而言之,调查吸引了约65,000响应。

“The best way to value these digital goods is to go to people directly and ask them,” Collis says.

这项研究产生的有关在线服务和具体公司的一些独特的发现。例如,消费者放在在线视频流媒体服务,如YouTube和Netflix的$ 1,173个,平均每年价值。可以肯定,这些视频平台,等等,都收取费用,一些消费者 - 尽管这些都是典型的$ 10 $ 20元不等。

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该研究还揭示了巨大的价值,消费者关注特定类别的在线商品。例如,人们所重视搜索引擎,平均的17,530每年$,并发送电子邮件至$八四一四。科利斯表明这些数字可能会出现如此之高,因为很多人使用搜索引擎,并在工作和闲暇时间的电子邮件,并使用这两个因素来评估整体价值。

关于具体的公司和产品,调查发现,消费者谁使用YouTube或Instagram的地方在Facebook上的较低值。女人都对Facebook的男人比更高的价值,同时与Facebook比都低收入和高收入家庭$ 100,000 $和15万的地方少值之间的低收入家庭。

Mend it, don’t end it

The current study is the latest serious effort to reassess the common use of GDP. Critics have long suggested we rely too heavily on GDP as an indicator of overall well-being, since there is more to life than economic production.

In a separate but related critique, some observers — and many Silicon Valley technologists — have been contending in recent years that free online products were neglected by GDP. Those free goods can also be thought to add to our overall “well-being,” in theory.

Certainly there are good reasons to think a refinement of GDP along the study’s lines could be an improvement. Even as the use of computing technology has grown massively, the information sector has remained between 4 percent and 5 percent of U.S. GDP from the early 1980s until 2016.

对他们来说,笔者认为目前的纸只有一个关于国内生产总值一个更大的研究项目的一部分。作为其正在进行的工作的一部分,他们正试图在一个大型的数字总结了目前标准的GDP衡量的是忽视产品的价值到达,并产生GDP的替代版本。新的人物,科利斯说,可以有效补充我们的测量工具对国家经济。

“GDP is a great measure of production,” Collis says. “We should not replace it.” However he adds, “In parallel, we should also be measuring economic well-being [in ways that] account for new and free goods.”


Topics: Sloan School of Management, Economics, Business and management, Technology and society, innovation, Research, Social sciences

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