The Economic Power of the Internet in the U.K.

It makes a change to see the U.K. at the top of a league table, especially one that relates to economic factors, but that’s where we were this week in figures released the the Boston Consulting Group:

Angel of the NorthIn the developed markets of the G-20, the Internet economy will grow approximately 8 percent annually; in the developing markets, it will grow more than twice as fast—at an average annual rate of 18 percent. Argentina and India will grow the fastest, at 24 percent and 23 percent a year, respectively. The leading developed markets—Italy and the U.K.—will grow about 12 percent and 11 percent a year, respectively


In 2010, the Internet economy in the U.K. accounted for the highest percentage of national GDP, followed by South Korea (7.3 percent) and China (5.5 percent). In each of these three countries, the Internet economy would rank among the top six industry sectors.

Although not shown in the press release the GDP figure for the UK is 8.3%.

The interesting thing is that the report expects that by 2016 the "Internet economy" will account for 12.4% of the U.K. GDP.

In other words:

The economic impact of the Internet is getting bigger—just about everywhere—and it already has an enormous base. In the U.K., for example, the Internet’s contribution to 2010 GDP is more than that of construction and education.

The report also states that in the U.K. we do far more online retailing than any of the other G-20 countries.

I have mixed feelings about this information.

One of my feelings is puzzlement. I see the Internet used all day by all sorts of people, but it’s very low-key. Perhaps that’s just the British way, we are best when we are just getting on with things. The infrastructure is dominated by BT who, let’s face it, never give over the impression that they are a world leader. To quote a friend of mine "Hacked off with BT-Each time we get 10 days from our Infinity available date it slips 3 months." It’s also a country where communities are having to make things happen for themselves.

Another feeling is concern. Is it actually a good thing to have our economy ahead of others in this respect, does it just show that our manufacturing and other industries are so weak? That said, the level of growth would suggest that this is something real and not just a statistical quirk.

The final feeling I’m going to cover was pride. People like to paint the U.K. as a bit old and bit stuffy when actually we love new things and revel in change when we are at our best. In a world of Generation Flux I suspect we might do quite well.

4 thoughts on “The Economic Power of the Internet in the U.K.”

  1. Indeed, I was also rather surprised by this statistic and perhaps the reality that the UK is performing “quite nicely” (in certainly respects) – without making much of a show about. I was also surprised to hear that Pete Cashmore (Gen. Flux) is Scots!


  2. Nice piece Graham and thanks for the B4RN mention too! I read those headlines with interest too and agree it’s great news and great to see us at the top of a table. There’s clearly lots to exploit on the online world and the UK seem to be good at doing it. It’s now up to the government, telecom companies and communities to ensure we have the infrastructure to stay on top as more service and applications move online.


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