CBS and Dataprovider successfully map internet economy

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
© Sjoerd van der Hucht Fotografie
One of the innovative research projects that have been realised by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in the past few years is mapping of the internet economy. In this project, CBS teams up with the Dutch company Their joint approach has received a lot of international recognition. Elsewhere around the world, a number of other countries are planning to also implement the basic model developed by CBS and Dataprovider.

Size of the internet economy

Measuring the internet economy was a challenging assignment for CBS. Both the method for merging the data and several data sources used in this project were novelties. CBS Deputy Director General Bert Kroese explains: ‘The starting point of our research was Dataprovider’s file containing all Dutch corporate websites and their respective characteristics. We then linked these websites to the CBS General Business Register (ABR) to retrieve further relevant information about, for instance, turnover and staffing at these companies. By combining Dataprovider’s big data with regular CBS statistics, we arrived at an initial calculation of the size of the Dutch internet economy. This revealed that internet activities generated most of the turnover at about 50 thousand Dutch companies including webshops and internet-related ICT companies.’

Indexing millions of websites

Gijs Barends is co-founder of, a company based in Groningen City and operating in 50 countries around the world. The company indexes over 213 million websites on a monthly basis; over 5 million of them located in the Netherlands. ‘We produce summaries of company websites and structure the data to create a proper insight into these companies. This involves looking at 200 different characteristics, for example commercial activities or degree of innovativeness.’ Dataprovider works with a wide range of companies: ‘From Google to PayPal. Our clients include many large American companies, but also a number of Dutch authorities, like CBS.’ employs around 45 people, mostly data scientists and data explorers. They apply machine learning-techniques and artificial intelligence (AI). ‘Our methodology is partly our secret, but as for CBS, we tell them what we are doing. This is very important to CBS from the methodological point of view.’ Kroese agrees: ‘To properly assess data quality it is indeed essential to have methodological insight. In addition, CBS places great emphasis on transparency and publicity. All our research results are accessible and understandable to everyone.’

Seal of quality

Barends is enthusiastic about the collaboration with CBS: ‘It’s interesting and socially useful. Because of this collaboration, our product also gets better. CBS staff are very clever people who provide great feedback and ask critical questions. CBS also performs checks on the quality of our data. The seal of quality granted by CBS means a lot to us.’ Today, on 20 May 2019, the successful collaboration between CBS and Dataprovider over the past four years bears fruit in the form of a collaboration agreement. Barends: ‘The agreement confirms among other things that our data will be linked to the CBS general business register.’ Egon Gerards, director in charge of the CBS business register: ‘The business register constitutes the backbone of the statistical process. business data offer opportunities to include information about company websites in the register, and from it we can derive other classifications, for instance on cyber security, corporate social responsibility or as part of the platform economy.’ Deputy Director General Bert Kroese also sees great merit in the collaboration with ‘This will provide us the possibility to obtain supplementary statistical data by using new technology; data that will help us form an even more detailed picture of social developments.’

Business opportunities

Kroese emphasises the fact that CBS highly values collaboration with the private sector. ‘We can reinforce each other’s activities in many different areas. For example: at CBS we implement innovative techniques, resources and know-how that are present in the market, provided they meet our preconditions in terms of quality, reliability, open algorithms, security of supply, etcetera. We see myriad opportunities to start fulfilling the data needs of other public authorities by teaming up with companies and knowledge institutions in a kind of data ecosystem. The ecosystem bundles know-how and expertise that is available from the different stakeholders, which allows us to reinforce each other.’ Alliances between the public and the private sector create added value, according to Kroese: ‘Market actors can expand and enrich the range of their products and services by working with us. Our network contributes to this. In addition, the way we look at data offers new insights into the quality of the data from the different parties involved.’

International sequel

Collaborative research by CBS and on the Dutch internet economy provides a nice illustration of the above. It spawned an international sequel: in 2018, Dataprovider concluded a contract with South Korea’s national statistical institute KOSTAT. The initial results from this joint research on the internet economy of South Korea were presented to the OECD on 7 May of this year. Barends: ‘Coming up in June we’ve been invited by the United Nations to deliver a keynote presentation at an assembly together with CBS, in front of more than 100 statistical directors from all over the world, where we will present our mutual collaboration. This fits well within the future plans of our company: to continue growing and collaborating with new actors in order to expand our range of data and achieve even better data quality.’