January 15, 2020

Supporting independent research to better measure the impact of the digital economy

By: Meta Research

The digital economy is redefining the global economy, both in creating new economic spaces and by altering the way analog activities are undertaken. Even though an exact definition of the digital economy is elusive, it is clear that the leading digital platforms are having an impact on individuals, markets, and society.

With over two billion people and 140 million businesses on our platform, digital connections across Facebook apps and technologies—Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Oculus—have a meaningful economic impact on people and businesses.

With this reach and level of daily engagement in the world’s economic activity, there is significant interest in identifying the value of this economic impact. The greater effect of the digital economy—including Facebook’s apps and technologies—generate much interest by policymakers and others.

Many leading academics have sought to quantify the value of digital technology to the economy. Studies reflect that the impact is large and significant (Brynjolfsson et al. 2019 and Byrne & Corrado 2019). However, these efforts also illustrate the varying approaches to measurement of the digital economy and run into the proverbial methodological wall of needing to quantify an outcome variable that isn’t found in national accounts (as is the case with manufactured goods).

Pledging $1 million to support academic research

Facebook is committed to advancing the literature on the digital economy. Building upon the 2019 Economic Opportunity and Digital Platforms research awards, we are contributing $1 million in funding to support research on economic impact and opportunity in 2020.

We hope to support research that advances the field on how to theoretically frame and empirically measure the economic impact of digital platforms as well as the impact of these platforms on economic opportunity globally. We will also be hosting meetings to converse with external experts in civil society and academia, including a research summit during which award recipients can present their work.

New request for proposals

In our first initiative in this space for 2020, we launched a request for research proposals on measuring economic impact in the digital economy. Example topic areas include but are not limited to the following:

  • A taxonomy of the digital economy, including subsectors within the digital economy
  • Theoretical models of economic impact of the digital economy
  • Empirical application of theoretical models of causal economic impact

Research proposals are due March 9, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. AOE. More information about the RFP is available here.