The NRI: What do I think about this index from a social perspective?

Last month the World Economic Forum launched “The Global Information Technology Report 2013: Growth and Jobs in a Hyperconnected World“[1], which presents the result of an annual study that measures the World’s Networked Readiness Index (NRI). This Index, as stated by the editors, measures the degree to which economies across the world leverage ICT for enhanced competitiveness, helping policymakers and relevant stakeholders to track their economies’ strengths and weaknesses as well as their progress over time. Moreover, to accompany the continuous evolution ICTs have, both 2012 and 2013 NRI, are the result of a review process which not only adapted some of the variables considered but also included two Impact Subindexes, in this way, trying to become a more appropriate tool for the next decade. [2]

It is interesting to follow up the reactions of these kind of reports. Last year’s report, was the first to show the results of the new framework used for the ranking. Searching online, it is possible to find news from every country in Latin America stating their improvement or not in the ranking, with comments of governments of how proud they are that their investments are showing good results. On the other hand, these year’s reactions have been modest, even imperceptible. Some of the reactions found are from the Colombian Journal “El Espectador” that mentioned that Latin America NRI is still low. Another was from the Mexican Online Journal “Animal Político” which makes an initially positive statement indicating that Mexico has improved its raking by 13 points, but ends up stating also, that this improvement is mostly the result of an increase of E-Gov services and that this improvement is not felt by the common citizen, who still has the same difficulties to access ICTs as before.

So, how useful this kind of index is for the ones working with human development? How much an Index that focuses mostly on economic performance should guide policymakers and government officials?

As the own editors of the report state, tracking ICT Impacts is as important as setting the scenario, that is why they have included two subindexes to track these as well on the NRI. These subindexes try to measure broad economic and social impacts. However, measuring social impacts is somehow a new approach, which, as stated by the editors, it “is a complex task and the development of rigorous quantitative data to do so is still in its infancy.” [2]

An investment that is on place but that is not used and that is not generating revenue is a lost investment. This is the main logic behind including impacts on the NRI, which is a valid logic from a market perspective, but, is it enough from a social perspective? As we know, most social investments show “revenue” only on the long term, for instance, investments on education will show a great impact on society when those kids become adults. And, aren’t this kind of investments the ones we would like our governments to make?

There are two main reflections I make:

  1. Governments use these kind of world wide indexes to plan their actions. We as citizens should be more aware of what kind of information is the one that is moving our governments’ actions, not just to understand their projects, but to demand changes if we believe they are necessary.
  2. Even worldwide indexes as the NRI are recognising the need to include social impact information in their frameworks. But the great challenge is, as mentioned before, that quality information of this matter is not available. We should not let this opportunity to pass. NGOs and citizens should support the production of this kind of data. Only then, these indexes will reflect data that supports society and not just the market itself.

So the big question remains. How do we, as simple citizens, try to influence these big institutions? How can we show our support for the inclusion of social impact indexes? How can we participate on the production of the data? The answer could be to increase citizen participation.. but how to motivate the people to participate? How to allow their participation? how to use the data?.. many questions.. still no simple answers… at least now, what we could do is be more critical when we see data like this, to avoid believing data without reflecting.

Till we find a better solution, lets keep reflecting and discussing!

[1] Bilbao-Osorio, B. Dutta, S. Lanvin, B. Ed. (2013) The Global Information Technology Report 2013: Growth and Jobs in a Hyperconnected World. Insight Report. World Economic Forum: Geneva.

[2] Dutta, S. Bilbao-Osorio, B. Ed. (2012) The Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyperconnected World. Insight Report. World Economic Forum: Geneva.

Un pensamiento en “The NRI: What do I think about this index from a social perspective?

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