BEA's initial measures of the digital economy are prepared within an economic accounting framework that is fully consistent with how the GDP accounts for the nation are constructed. This framework also underpins the estimates of BEA's “satellite accounts,” such as that for arts and cultural production, outdoor recreation, and for travel and tourism. These initial estimates include measures of gross output, value added, compensation of employees, and employment for subgroups of the digital economy and the overall digital economy.

Conceptually, a digital economy satellite account should include all good and services related to the digital economy. However, BEA’s initial digital economy estimates excluded any goods that have any nondigital components and many services that have nondigital components. The challenges of estimating the economic contribution of these “partially digital” goods and services led to the decision to present preliminary estimates in March 2018 based only on goods and services categories that are primarily digital. With the latest update in August 2020, BEA has expanded its coverage of e-commerce in the digital economy estimates to include items on a partial basis for the first time, meaning that the digital portion of these partially digital items’ value is included in the estimates. This partial inclusion of additional retail and wholesale e-commerce items expands the coverage of our digital economy estimates.

While there is not yet a digital economy satellite account, the progressive updates of these estimates of the digital economy are working toward such an account.