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I’ve moved this blog from Livejournal because Sad Tosser tells me that I will get more readers. Frankly I couldn’t get less.
I’m currently involved in a long project to collect all references (mainly in The Times and The Observer) to things in the British Economy which are estimated to cost more than £1bn. Eventually I will be able to build up a complete picture of where the money goes: as total official UK GDP 2005 is about £1.2 trillion (1000 billion) its not going to take too long.
Remember if you had a £10 note you would on average spend a bit less than 1p on every billion quoted here.

A wise politician (sic) once said that that to raise a billion pounds in tax was like taking £1000 each from a million people – and thats another way of looking at it. Of course that’s why redistributive taxation is unpopular and therefore out of fashion. New Labour prefers to raise £50 each from 20 million people and then pay back £75 to half of them in tax credits. The balance is of course used for administrative expenses and maintenance payments for John Prescott.

Anyway while this is being compiled, I thought we could look at a few figures along the way.
And first up its the cost of Spam. An EU Commission report published 27/11/06 put the worldwide cost of Spam at £26bn, £1.25bn for UK. I assume these figures are annual.

What can the costs of spam be? Postini (see picture) ,also referenced by the Time this week (26/11/06) tell us they include ‘Unexpected overloads in bandwidth, server storage capacity and loss of end-user”. I assume the last bit of text was truncated by a rogue offer for Viagra – if I have misunderstood this and Spam truly cause the loss of end-user, then I feel the true costs are, if anything, understated.

Meanwhile, lets look at the figures:

First from the individual point of view: I’m going to exclude personal e-mail as this will not contribute to GDP.
UK employment is 30 million, of course not all will access e-mail as part of that employment – lets guess half. That’s £86 a head: maybe 6 hours a year per employee – 100 seconds a day.
The Times, 26/11/06: “Anna Newsome, who works for a charity association in Bristol, said: “I normally have 80 e-mails waiting for me each morning and 70 of them are selling Viagra or something similar. It takes me 10 minutes to go through my inbox.”
But of course, larger companies spend money on spam filters etc, presumably because that works out cheaper. (Worldwide spend on e-mail scanning software in 2001 estimated at £100m (International Data Corporation, June 2002)

Other costs: Electricity used by ISPs. Disk storage (but only if they arent deleted manually or automatically). Newsprint for articles about the problem, paper for press releases. Getting your e-mails slower (why not send them first class).

The big picture:
The EU estimates worldwide costs at £26bn. There is general agreement that 60-80% of e-mail is spam (this site tries not to use stats in general agreement, but at least it isn’t 180%). All we need is a reliable number for external e-mails sent per year ands we’re in business. Until then I cannot issue a crapstat rating for this statistic.