The information and communication technology (ICT) sector grew by an average of 6,3% between 2013 and 2023 – about three times faster than the total economy across the 27 OECD countries analysed.

The first volume of the newly-released OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2024 also shows the ICT sector maintained this strong performance during 2023 with an average growth rate of 7,6%. In many OECD countries, 2023 was a record year for ICT sector growth, with five OECD countries (the UK, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands) achieving growth rates above 10% in 2023.

While all OECD countries showed positive ICT sector growth on average over the 10-year period, a 10 percentage-point gap exists between the highest and lowest performers.

On artificial intelligence (AI), the Outlook shows that investments – and risks – are on the rise, but adoption is highly concentrated. For example, investment in generative AI (GenAI) has grown from $1,3-billion in 2022 to $17,8-billion in 2023, while in parallel there has been a 53-fold increase in GenAI incidents and hazards reported by reputable news outlets globally since late 2022.

AI adoption is concentrated in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector where an average of 28% of ICT firms used AI in 2023 in the OECD – higher than any other sector. For the benefits of AI to be widely shared, diffusion rates must increase in other sectors.

“The ICT sector is a key driver of global growth,” says OECD secretary-general Mathias Cormann. “However, there are substantial differences between countries, with a gap of more than 10 percentage points between the economies with highest and lowest average sector growth rates between 2013 and 2023.

“This first volume of the 2024 OECD Digital Economy Outlook provides new insights and data to help policymakers design effective policies to ensure we harness the extraordinary opportunities of digital technologies while managing the associated risks and disruptions.

“Whereas technologies such as cloud computing and Internet of Things have diffused widely, adoption of data-dependent technologies such as AI remains low,” Cormann adds. “For the benefits of AI to be more widely shared – also in support of sustainable, resilient, and inclusive growth – diffusion rates must increase into other sectors.”

The 2024 Outlook also explores a number of digital policy issues including privacy in immersive technologies like virtual reality, the future of wireless connectivity, and the increase in negative online behaviours that affect mental health such as cyberbullying.

For example, the Outlook shows that the overall rate of young people reporting difficulties in everyday functioning and feeling unhappy because of social media use increased by 49% since 2017, with the share of girls increasing more than twice as much as boys. This comprehensive analysis of the digital landscape offers a valuable tool for policymakers looking to stay abreast of the implications of technological developments for public policies.

The Outlook’s ICT sector estimates are based on a novel OECD model that leverages big data and machine-learning techniques to provide policymakers with timely, up-to-date, and comparable data on the economic growth of the ICT sector. These new estimates help address the lack of timely data on ICT sector performance and are essential to evaluating the effectiveness of sector-related policies.