The subsets may be distributed across various different economic sectors but still share a strong link to the “core” system. Satellite accounts are regularly used in the context of specific economic activities that cannot be precisely defined by the existing delineation of broader economic sectors or product groups. The purpose of a satellite account is to expand the analytical capacity of national accounting for selected aspect of economic activities. The satellite account provides a more detailed description of a particular economic function or theme, including its interaction with other economic activities and the impact on the economy at large. The international coordination of the definition of a satellite account is of great importance. The results should permit internal consistency with the rest of the statistical system of a country as well as international comparability of the impact of the activities described in the satellite account.

Probably the best known of the frameworks is the Tourism Satellite Account, which was mandated by the World Tourism Organization (see United Nations, 2010). The Tourism Satellite Account includes all the aspects of demand for goods and services which might be associated with tourism. These include, for example, hospitality services, which are traditionally associated with tourism, but also the purchase of souvenirs produced by various branches of the manufacturing industry, or passenger transport services. By combining data for the total tourist consumption and total production and imports of touristic goods and services the direct economic impact of tourism can be calculated. The Tourism Satellite Account is based on an international harmonized framework. National results can thus easily be compared across countries.

Other recent sectors of interest for satellite accounts are the sports sector, the audio-visual media sector and, in particular, the information society, or digital economy.

The publication of the OCED Guide to Measuring the Information Society (OECD, 2011) represented a first important step towards defining the digital economy. The Guide defined the ICT goods and services sector and the products and services they produce. However, the Guide stressed future challenges in defining “new indicators in areas that are inherently difficult to measure” from a statistical perspective, such as e-business or ICT education and skills. In recent years, the OECD Working Party on International Trade in Goods and Trade in Services Statistics (2017a, b, c) has published several working papers to develop and define a structural framework for measuring the impact of the digital economy that could provide the basis for the development of satellite accounting systems for macro-economic statistics. Recent publications by the OECD (2019) underline the importance of “making the digital economy visible in economic statistics”.