Canadian data investment rivals total crude bitumen estimates: StatsCan

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian investment in data, databases and data science, including those used by personal devices and businesses, is growing at such a rapid pace it is nearing the country’s estimated bitumen reserves, one of the largest on the planet.

The total investment in data from 1990 to 2018 has reached C$217 billion ($166 billion), a study released by Statistics Canada showed on Wednesday. By comparison, the stock of established crude bitumen reserves was just over C$300 billion in 2017, the agency said.

Investment in data includes very basic consumer activities such as downloading online music or reading materials as well as collection, processing and analysis of data used by businesses to increase their operational efficiency, the agency said. Statistics Canada considers that an economic activity.

The average annual growth rate of data investment in the Canadian economy rose by 6.2% between 2015 and 2018 to as much as C$40 billion, more than the spending on industrial machinery and transportation equipment, the study showed.

“Digitization, storage and the analytics of information is an asset, like a machine or a building is an asset to a business,” Jim Tebrake, Director General of the Macroeconomic Accounts Branch at Statistics Canada told Reuters.

The study is the first of its kind globally that puts a dollar value on the production of data, Tebrake said, though Reuters could not independently verify that claim.

Statistics Canada calculated the total investment in data by accumulating the total time spent on developing and organizing information by a series of occupational groups, from 1990 to 2018.

“Data is used in ways that it has never been used before and we are not putting it in our economic numbers, we’re not acknowledging all the investment that has taken place,” Tebrake said.

Reporting by Levent Uslu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama