The existence of free (open source) software has a complex and important impact on the economy as a whole. The fact that information technology becomes more accessible and is more trusted is an enabler for the creation of new markets. The existence of a population of pro-users (users that are also producers of software and information) plays a key role in the take-up of new activities and branches, as illustrated by the example of music, digital photography and personal home pages. New products (for instance appliances), new services (for instance training or information services) and new branches of activity can develop on this basis. In specific fields, such as education, the reduction in total cost of ownership that is enabled by use of open source platforms, and even more the mobilisation of the creative abilities of all players in the field lead to an increased efficiency of the public services. The dynamic stability enabled by open source platforms, that is the possibility to have long-term trajectories of innovation, make possible more efficient investment strategies in user industries.
However, while the reality of these macro-economic effects is well documented, their quantification, and their comparison (taking in account possible negative macro-economic impact) is not possible today, because of the lack of adequate detailed statistical data on free and open source usage and its detailed links with economical and non-economical activities. The development of the proper macro-economic indicators is needed if decisions with respect to the impact of open source on the economy of a whole country are to be taken based in facts.