The second stage, where we currently stand today is utilizing a combination of hard data and somewhat anecdotal information culled together to form a Networked Readiness Index or NRI. This index is seen as a collection of best practices for ICT readiness and competitiveness and it's gathered and summarized by the World Economic Forum in its "Global Information Technology Report."
The purpose of the NRI is to determine how a country's information and communication technologies (ICT) are being used currently and how capable it is of continued growth. The hope is that countries can use this data to make decisions about ICT. For example, one data point demonstrates the top and worst performers by income group. Looking at similar countries, can analysts determine what countries are doing right and wrong with regard to ICT.
The data the World Economic Forum uses to calculate its Networked Readiness Index (NRI) is comprised of 60 different variables of which 40 percent are hard data and the remaining 60 percent are based on survey data. That survey data is collected from a few thousand CEOs or managers of organizations.
Step up data collection by digging down
When we have a highly connected community that's eager to tell their story and their wants, why shouldn't we let them have a voice? Where information can be gathered from the ground level up, why are we relying on CEOs to tell us the story of their entire country?
Prior to the collective intelligence of the social Internet, that may have been the best solution to collect pseudo-anecdotal information, but it's not anymore.
We have seen in so many cases that unstructured knowledge gathering is the most cost efficient and eye-opening data point. The pure existence of discussion boards, blogs, and most notably Wikipedia have shown that individuals can put their excess time to productive use. If people have the time, the desire to tell their story, why not create a forum on a national and global scale to provide that information? We have a cognitive surplus as Clay Shirky explains.
I'm not fully familiar with the WEF's data collection process for surveys. Are they mailed out? Are people interviewed? But looking at the current form of survey data collection, it seems the best reason to do it this way is it's the best method to generate uniform worldwide pseudo-anecdotal data.
But must we wait for all countries to be up to snuff on social communications technologies before we ask individuals to give us their voice, especially when it will be a factor in determining their future? Wouldn't a person who wants to tell their story provide more valuable information than a CEO that's required to fill out a survey? Maybe they don't even fill it out themselves. Maybe they give it to an assistant.
Don't wait for a worldwide standard
A country that is connected with online platforms for their community, will be able to generate far more valuable ground level data that simply could not be gathered by any other means in any type of cost efficient manner. Lack of a worldwide standard is not a reason to avoid collecting and taking advantage of user generated data.
It should be a combination of more formalized data, asking community members what's important to them, like what moveon.org has done. Plus it should include the scanning of loosely structured real-time community generated data.
The next step is for techonomists to use this data to constantly be tweaking an ever moving standard on collecting, analyzing, and acting on all this ground level data.
Creative Commons photo credit to Steve Crane.