Internet's GDP Contribution Greater Than Energy, Agriculture, Mining: Study

The Internet is causing economic growth across the world that exceeds the pace of the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s.

According to a new report by McKinsey, Internet use has created GDP growth of 3.4 percent in 13 surveyed countries (Sweden, Germany, France, U.K., U.S., South Korea, Canada, Italy, Japan, India, China, Brazil and Russia) which account for over 70 percent of the global GDP.

In "mature" countries--which excludes India, China, Brazil and Russia--the Internet accounts for 21 percent growth. Though it has eliminated 500,000 jobs, it has created 1.2 million new jobs, meaning that 2.4 jobs were created for each job lost.

"Many have compared the dawn of the Internet to another communications game changer, the introduction of the Gutenberg press five centuries earlier," the report said. "But a comparison with the development and commercialization of electric power may be more appropriate."

The influence of the Internet is not restricted to web industries. In fact, McKinsey found that "75 percent of the economic impact of the Internet arises from traditional companies that don't define themselves as pure Internet players." That said, businesses that rely on the web tend to grow at twice the speed of businesses with "minimal or no [web] presence."

Astonishingly, if the Internet were considered as its own sector, its contribution to global GDP would outweigh that of energy, agriculture, mining, and other industries.

Quality of life has also improved as a result of web growth. In countries that have seen increase in Internet maturity over the past 15 years, real GDP has increased per capita by an average of $500--an achievement that took the Industrial Revolution 50 years.

The U.S. leads this Internet ecosystem, with over 30 percent of global Internet revenues and over 40 percent of net income. Meanwhile, both India and China have shown growth rates of over 20 percent. In the past 15 years, the Internet is responsible for 7 percent of combined economic growth for the surveyed countries; in the past five years alone, that figure rises to 11 percent.

McKinsey notes that there are considerable opportunities for expansion in the cloud computing and big data fields. It estimates that by 2015, cloud computing could be a $70 to $85 billion opportunity, with the market doubling every two years. It also projects that companies that are able to handle the processing of rapidly growing databases will be able to capture huge profits. In health care alone, a productivity increase of 1 percent over the next ten years represents $300 billion in value.

The report urges governments to support the Internet industry if they wish to see further economic gains.

"Governments as users are also a key catalyst to the spread of Internet technologies," the report stated. "The future growth of the Internet will require cooperation among governments and the right kind of smart regulation and support, at both the national and international levels."