Abstract There is a marked imbalance in the literature on the information economy: despite a proliferation of grand speculations, and a large number of case studies, there are relatively few efforts to bring macrostatistics to bear on relevant developments. The main approach which has been pursued statistically, involving efforts to define and monitor an ‘information sector’ has served a useful consciousness-raising role, but is inherently limited. It is proposed that a focus on the production and use of new information technology (IT) provides a more appropriate way of conceptualizing the information economy. A study is described in which relevant data were critically appraised for the United Kingdom; the conclusions with respect to specific classes of data are summarized. It is concluded that these data do support an IT focus in statistical work; they demonstrate the availability of a great deal of statistical material which has been exploited to a surprisingly limited extent; but there are substantial elisions and omissions in available data, which need to be corrected. Rather than launch a wholesale revision of statistical series, however, it is proposed that progress can currently best be made by encouraging a plurality of experimental studies.