Applications such as iMessage, KakaoTalk, LINE, Signal, Skype, Snapchat, Threema, Viber, WhatsApp and WeChat have become increasingly popular with consumers around the world. A new study finds that a 10% increase in the global usage of these applications has led to an increase of US$5.6 trillion in GDP across 164 countries over 16 years (2000 to 2015).
These interactive applications that are so popular today actually trace their origins to instant messenger services like AIM, ICQ or Live Chat, which were installed on almost every computer during the early days of the public Internet. The common thread between these different applications is that they facilitate rich interaction such as photo/video sharing, location, payment and chat between individuals, groups and enterprises. Therefore we at WIK, a German-based international research institute, have decided to call them Rich Interaction Applications (RIAs), a term that captures more accurately the range of functions they can perform.
Indeed, a variety of specialized applications has emerged to cater to the needs of individual groups such as families and youths (Disney MIX – although no longer available) or the elderly (Care Messenger). Others like Hike (India), Jongla (Nigeria) and 2go (South Africa) predominantly serve local markets. All of these applications have a variety of functions, and providers of RIAs have to develop and adopt new features continuously to keep up with or stay ahead of the competition. Correspondingly, the WIK study surveys 139 RIAs, mapping the specific functions they offer today, and it shows that the most advanced RIAs feature more than 20 functions.
With more and more functions offered, consumers’ usage of RIAs comes ever closer to capturing all activities commonly done on the Internet. This idea shaped WIK’s econometric analysis of the impact of RIAs in developed and developing countries. According to our estimates, each 10% increase in RIA usage has added on average US$5.6 trillion in GDP (0.33% of GDP), exceeding the economic benefits of basic telecommunications services across 164 countries studied from 2000 to 2015.