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Huge technology advances demonstrates urgency for new productivity measure say engineers

06 October 2016


Today, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have published the first conclusions of a joint project looking at how to improve the measurement of the economic output of telecommunications and technology in national statistics.

The project aims to ensure productivity figures properly capture the large gains in the performance of communication products and service, such as smartphones, over the last 30 years. The initial findings indicate that there is a disconnect between observable rates of technological change and the rate of growth of output and productivity.  The IET and ONS are calling for an improved method of measuring the quality of life gained by advancements made in engineering and technology and further work needs to be carried out to achieve this.

Prof Will Stewart, IET Vice President, said: “This is the first coming-together of statisticians, economists and engineers to address a key concern over current assessments of key statistics such as productivity, which are widely used as measures of economic progress, but which fail to capture huge improvements in the performance of engineering-driven products and services from everything from smartphones to high-efficiency lighting.

“GDP is how most countries measure the progress of their economy, so there is a pressing need to update the way we measure output in the service and digital industries of the economy, as well as assessing the impact of the rapid growth of the electronic economy.

“Huge advances in technologies over the last 30 years have dramatically changed all our lives.  But this advancement barely registers as an improvement in productivity, which means current statistical measures, such as GDP, do not adequately capture progress in quality-of-life terms and decision makers and all of us need to be aware of this.

“By working with the ONS to improve the way we measure output to reflect societal benefits from technological advancement, we will be able to give a much more accurate picture of how engineering and technological progress are impacting our economy.”

Notes to editors:

The full The Measurement of Economic Output in Information Communication and Telecommunications article is available here.