The Index Civilisation: Why Governments Must Exceed Expectations

In recent years, some of the more astute commentators – the redoubtable Gillian Tett of London’s Financial Times springs to mind – have pointed to the importance of ‘big data’, the vast amounts of data that are collected by ever more powerful computers about the citizenries of mainly (though not exclusively) developed countries. This quantitatively massive data has the potential to change forever the relationship between the government and the governed, though we do not yet know precisely how; indeed, even conceptualising the scale of these humongous data sets and deciding how to analyse them is a major, largely unanswered question.

However, it is this same leap in computing power (and access higher storage capacities and access speeds via geometrically-multiplying computer networks) which is also making possible the spread of international comparative information between citizens, NGOs and governments, and which – in ways which may sometimes appear mundane – could end up holding large entities, in particular governments, to account in a far more exacting way then they have been used to.

Specifically, there is now an index to measure a huge number of factors which have a great impact on the contentedness of people around the world. Want to know how your government performs according to international norms of human rights? Amnesty International has an index for you. Do you think your government could do a lot make your country’s cities more pleasant? Then the Economist’s Liveability Ranking will go a long way towards telling you if you are correct. Indexes telling us everything from how much money your government is spending on (largely) pointless armaments to the general level of happiness in your country is now available at the touch of a button.

In many if not most polities this fact has yet to truly register, but once it does and reference to these indices and international comparisons become more commonplace, it is quite possible that governments will be under considerable pressure to increase their performance levels and climb up the indices which their electorates value most.

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2 Comments

Filed under Political Science, Psychology

2 responses to “The Index Civilisation: Why Governments Must Exceed Expectations

  1. As we derive a global consensus on how things should, I think it’s time to get rid of national boundaries. Why keep comparing nations when you can simply merge them altogether?

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