The Size and Growth Potential of the Digital Economy in ODA-eligible Countries

1st December 2020
Author: George Herbert, Lucas Loudon

This rapid review synthesises evidence on the current size of the digital market, the countries promoting development of digital business and their approach through Trade Policies or Incentive Frameworks, and the current and potential size of the market with the UK / China / US / other significant countries. It draws on a variety of sources, including reports by international organisations (such as the World Bank and OECD), grey literature produced by think tanks and the private sector, and peer reviewed academic papers. A high proportion of estimates of the size of the digital economy come from research conducted by or for corporations and industry bodies, such as Google and the GSMA (which represents the telecommunications industry). Their research may be influenced by their business interests, the methodologies and data sources they utilise are often opaque, and the information required to critically assess findings is sometimes missing. Given this, the estimates presented in this review are best seen as ballpark figures rather than precise measurements. A limitation of this rapid evidence review stems from the lack of consistent methodologies for estimating the size of the digital economy. The OECD is attempting to develop a standard approach to measuring the digital economy across the national accounts of the G20, but this has not yet been finalised. This makes comparing the results of different studies very challenging. The problem is particularly stark in low income countries, where there are frequently huge gaps in the relevant data.

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Suggested Citation

Herbert, G. & Loudon, L. (2020). The size and growth potential of the digital economy in ODAeligible countries. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies. DOI: 10.19088/K4D.2021.016


1st December 2020


Continent: Global

Country: China, United States