Valuing Data: Where Are We, and Where Do We Go Next?

CIGI Paper No. 280

September 6, 2023

The importance of data as a driver of technological advancement cannot be underestimated, but how can it be measured? This paper looks at measuring the value of data in national accounts using three different categories of data-related assets: data itself, databases and data science. The focus then turns to three recent studies by statistical agencies in Canada, the Netherlands and the United States to examine how each country uses a cost-based analysis to value data-related assets. Although there are two other superior ways of valuing data (the income-based method and the market-based method, as well as a hybrid approach), the authors find that these methods will be difficult to implement. The paper concludes with recommendations that include widening data-valuation efforts to the public sector, which is a major holder of data. The social value of data also needs to be calculated by considering both the positive and negative aspects of data-related investment and use. Appropriate data governance strategies are needed to ensure that data is being used for everyone’s benefit.

About the Authors

Tim Sargent is a CIGI distinguished fellow with 28 years of experience with the Government of Canada. He has held senior roles at Global Affairs Canada, the Privy Council Office and the Department of Finance, giving him policy-making experience at the highest level, in particular in the areas of trade policy, international finance and macroeconomics.

Laura Denniston is an honours economics student at the University of Ottawa.