What do we really know about the supply and demand of cultural products in an era where digital technology has transformed the cultural production chain, from creation to dissemination?

This question was the starting point for a gathering of cultural statistics experts, researchers and government organizations as well as participants from the private sector, and is the subject of a new report on the proceedings of the meeting, held in Montreal in May 2016.

The report, Actes du Colloque international sur la mesure des produits culturels numériques, a bilingual  document published jointly by the UIS and the Institut de la statistique du Québec, includes a collection of research papers presented by participants, and a summary of panel discussions organized by theme, such as the measurement of digital cultural products and the diversity of cultural expressions, legal and regulatory issues, metadata, big data, intellectual property rights and data transparency.

Statistical agencies are grappling with the vast technological shift brought about by new platforms for disseminating and consuming digital cultural content, such as music and movies. While there has been an explosion of new data, they may be held by private corporations, making it difficult to produce clear and neutral statistics on the consumption of cultural products.  

Without these data, questions about cultural diversity and the diversity of cultural expressions become more difficult to answer. This is of particular concern to UNESCO as the agency responsible for the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

The report calls for new partnerships across public and private sectors to promote data transparency, and more innovation to deliver high-quality statistics on digital cultural products. Meanwhile, statistical agencies can pave the way with new conceptual frameworks, classification systems and data collection tools to produce reliable, comparable statistics. According to the report, such initiatives will help to shed light on the impact of these technological shifts on cultural products and their content.