ZEW has been conducting a survey among companies in the information economy since mid-2011. These include ICT hardware manufacturers, ICT service providers, media service providers, and knowledge-intensive knowledge providers (see sector classification at the bottom of the website). The companies are surveyed on a quarterly basis and asked to assess the current business situation as well as their expectations. The ZEW Economic Sentiment Indicator for the Information Economy, which reflects the economic situation of the companies in the information economy, is then calculated on the basis of their responses.

In each survey wave, ZEW collects data on current key topics in the research area digital economy, including current ICT trends, investments in ICT or the diffusion of new ICT applications (such as artificial intelligence or cloud computing). As part of the survey, ZEW regularly gathers background data on, for instance, the number and qualifications of employees, business structures or the innovation activity of companies. The survey is also frequently used to collect data on key topics for other projects in the “Digital Economy” Research Department. A selection of projects associated with this business survey can be found in the column on the right under “Additional information”.

On a quarterly basis, the results of the survey are published in the ZEW Sector Report Information Economy (in German only). However, the key findings of the survey are also regularly made available in English in ZEW’s press releases.

The ZEW Business Survey is a follow-up project of the survey among service providers of the information economy, which ran from the first quarter of 2002 to 2011 and was then adapted and revised to reflect the comprehensive changes of the industrial classification of economic activities.

ZEW-Branchenreport Informationswirtschaft 2. Quartal 2020

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ZEW Business Survey in the Information Economy

The quarterly ZEW Business Survey in the Information Economy has been conducted by the ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research since mid-2011. In the last month of each quarter, ZEW reaches out to around 1,000 companies in the information economy (see definition below) with at least five employees. The companies are asked about their current business situation with regard to their turnover, the demand for their products, the number of employees and their expectations for the coming quarter. Based on the companies’ responses on the turnover situation and expectations on the one hand, and the current and expected demand for company products on the other hand, ZEW calculates the Economic Sentiment Indicator for the Information Economy as well as the corresponding indicators for the sub-sectors information and communication technologies (ICT), media service providers and knowledge-intensive service providers. Every survey wave also features a current focus topic related to ICT.

To ensure that the analysis is representative, the ZEW extrapolates the survey participants' answers to the cyclical questions (sales, demand and headcount) using the sales weights. The extrapolations for the entire economic sector as well as for the sub-sectors (ICT sector and knowledge-intensive knowledge providers) are carried out separately for each sector and for three size categories (5–19, 20–99, 100 and more employees). For media service providers, the survey results are extrapolated using only the size categories. In the context of cyclical issues, the phrasing “share of the businesses” reflects the share of turnover of the businesses. The participants’ responses to all other questions are for the most part extrapolated based on the total number of companies in the considered sectors. Business population data regarding the number of companies and employees as well as total turnover are taken from a special evaluation of the company register of the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, which is currently based on the reference year 2016.

The information economy is made up of the following sectors

ICT service providers

ICT service providers

  • Software publishing,
  • Telecommunications,
  • Computer programming, consultancy and related activities,  
  • Data processing, hosting, web portals

ICT hardware manufacturers

ICT hardware manufacturers

  • Manufacture of electronic components and boards,
  • Manufacture of computers and peripheral equipment,
  • Manufacture of communication equipment,   
  • Manufacture of consumer electronics,
  • Manufacture of magnetic and optical media

Media service providers

Media service providers

  • Publishing of books, periodicals and other publishing activities,
  • Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music, publishing activities,
  • Programming and broadcasting activities,
  • Other information service activities

Knowledge-intensive service providers

Knowledge-intensive service providers

  • Legal and accounting activities,
  • Management consultancy activities,
  • Architectural and engineering activities and related technical consultancy,
  • Scientific research and development,
  • Advertising and market research,
  • Other professional, scientific and technical activities