Measuring social progress is difficult -- so many variables to consider! And all methodologies for integrating all these variables into tracktable indices are methodologically-skrewd (Stiglitz et al 2009, Ravallion 2010). But the internet community has a strength that previous initiatives lacked: it has you! Users' collective intelligence -- if one could just feasibly bring everyone together -- can solve complex economic issues. Yourtopia is such a collaborative approach.
Yourtopia ranks the regions of Italy by a mix of social indicators that you -- as the user -- determine yourself. It allows you to see what divides us, where we have progressed and what social issues need addressing. By picking indicators and telling Yourtopia how important they are in relation to each other, you collaborate with all other users in building the world's first composite index of regional progress without arbitrary weighting assumptions.
You furthermore help analyse social progress at a time in which Italy is undergoing substantial reforms and in which it is crucial to keep track of social divides across our country.
Given the intensity of the current crisis, and the extent of the structural reforms needed, it is essential to keep track of social imbalances in Italy. This track-keeping is important for Italians in the North and South to make sure inequalities are not getting out of control while reforming, and it is equally important for other Europeans to follow a wider set of Italian social indicators - not exclusively its budget headlines.
We need a wider collaboration, and that means we need trust for cooperation in wider economic policies. But trust will not come without transparency; it must be easier for Italians in the North to understand and trace development in the South, and it is equally important that Northern Europeans can more easily comprehend the situation in which Italy is in, to build mutual understanding on needs and abilities. Open Data has an important role to play in establishing such trust-building transparency and bridge our double North-South divide, for a united way forward.
Students in tertiary education as % of the population aged 20-24 years at regional level. Tertiary education includes both programmes which are largely theoretically based and designed to provide qualifications for entry to advanced research programmes and professions with high skills requirements, as well as programmes which are classified at the same level of competencies but are more occupationally oriented and lead to direct labour market access. Data source
Early leaver from education and training generally refers to a person aged 18 to 24 who has finished no more than a lower secondary education and is not involved in further education or training; their number can be expressed as a percentage of the total population aged 18 to 24. Data source
The indicator identifies the proportion of population aged 15-29 years that is neither working nor in education or training: Neet (Not in Education, Employment or Training). This group of young people who have been out of the labour market or education for prolonged periods of time may find it more difficult to find a job. In 2010, in Italy more than two million young people (22.1 per cent of the population between 15 and 29 years) is out of circuit training and work. The proportion of Neet is higher among women (24.9 percent) than men (19.3 percent). Data source
Homicides and murders, including those committed by mafia-type criminal organizations. In the Italian Criminal Code, murder is among the first offense under the Offences against the person (Article 575), shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than 21 years. They are regulated separately in subsequent articles, infanticide, the murder of consenting to the manslaughter and negligent. Over the murders committed in the Mafia, including those committed by Mafia-type associations, that is, made by people who use force to intimidate the associative bond and the condition of subordination and silence that comes to committing crimes and other illegal activities. Data source
This indicator is shows the percentage of persons who declared to be affected by chronic desease to the Istat Indagine Multiscopo "Aspetti della vita quotidiana" (Multipurpose Survey on Households: Aspects of Daily Life) Data source
The commitment of theft is defined as (art. 624 cp) "Whoever takes over property of another, depriving its holder in order to make a profit for themselves or others." In 2001 was introduced in the Penal Code art. 624 bis, which governs the burglary dwelling and theft with tear types that were actually already planned before the theft as a generic aggravating. The theft by ripping, or mugging, involves a violent act (pulling off something from the hands of another), however, directed towards the object and not the person (otherwise it would be a robbery). Data source
Frequency of meeting friends in free time of persons aged 6 and over reflects social participation, as reported in the Istat Indagine Multiscopo "Aspetti della vita quotidiana" (Multipurpose Survey on Households: Aspects of Daily Life). It is a measure of personal social networking and active social life. Data source
The generic marriage rate - nuptiality - is built as the ratio between the number of marriages in the reference and the average amount of the resident population of the same year. In Italy the ratio of marriages in 2009 was 3.8 marriages per thousand population. If one considers the evolution of the phenomenon since 2004 (the year the total amount of marriages was approximately 249 000), with the exception of 2007, there has been a steady decline until you get to about 231 000 marriages in 2009. Continues, however, the upward trend in the proportion of civil marriages: it goes from 31.9 percent in 2004 to 37.2 percent in 2009. Data source
The generic separation rate is constructed as the ratio between the number of separations granted in the reference and the average amount of the resident population of the same year. Data source
The infant mortality rate is the ratio between the number of child deaths in the first year of life in a given calendar year and the number of live births in the same reference year. The deaths in this age group are mainly due to so-called endogenous causes, e.g., related to conditions of pregnancy and birth defects or malformations of the child. The external factors contributing to infant mortality in the post-neonatal period and are generally a result of diseases related to poor sanitation, inadequate medical services and difficult access, inadequate nutrition, injury and poisoning. Data source
The indicator measures the contribution of renewables to meet the gross domestic consumption of electricity and is calculated as the ratio between the gross production of electricity from renewable sources and the gross domestic consumption of electricity. The gross domestic consumption of electricity is equal to gross production of electricity plus the balance of trade with foreign countries and other regions. Renewable sources are the water from natural, geothermal, photovoltaics, wind power and that caused by biomass. Data source
The percentage of families who claim the presence of crime in the area they inhabit is estimated with data from Istat multipurpose survey "Aspects of daily life" that measures, on an annual basis, the fundamental aspects of daily life and behavior of families in Italy. The indicator shows the percentage of families who claim the risk of crime "very or fairly" present. Data source
This indicator is obtained by relating the amount of municipal waste sorted by type and nature in order to facilitate specific recycling treatments to the total municipal waste. Italian law set goals of waste sorting: 45 percent by the end of 2008, 50 percent by the end of 2009, 60 percent by the end of 2011 and 65 per cent for the following years. Data source
The percentage of households declaring the presence of problems related to air pollution and unpleasant odors in the area they inhabit is estimated with the data from the Istat Indagine Multiscopo "Aspetti della vita quotidiana" (Multipurpose Survey on Households: Aspects of Daily Life), which annually collects Italian families' behaviour and opinions about fundamental aspects of daily life. The indicator shows the percentage of families who claim the problems related to air quality to be very much and fairly present. Data source
The percentage of people over the age of 14, who are either "very much satisfied" or "quite satisfied" with their health conditions, as reported in the Istat Indagine Multiscopo "Aspetti della vita quotidiana" (Multipurpose Survey on Households: Aspects of Daily Life). People's perception of their progress and satisfaction with aspects of life are also important measures of social progress, because they indicate a degree of happiness. Data source
Internet users are defined people over the age of 6 who have access to the Internet, regardless whether they actually possess Internet access. The presented data was collected using the harmonized form at the European level on the use of new technologies (Comunity survey on ICT usage in Households and by individuals) and content multipurpose household survey "Aspects of daily life." Data source
The definition of R & D personnel adopted at the international level is shown on the Eurostat-OECD Manual (Frascati Manual) encoding methods for the statistical measurement of R & D. The research staff can be measured in terms of "full-time equivalent units." The latter allow to evaluate the actual contribution of R & D activities involved in government, universities, businesses and private nonprofit institutions. In addition to researchers, the research staff, technicians and support staff are also part of this category. The tables present the staff measured in units equivalent to full time and are proportional to the average resident population in the year. Data source
One of the main output indicators by which we measure the innovative activity of a country is the number of registered patents. These are derived from administrative sources and, thanks to the international patent offices, such as the European Patent Office (European Patent Office, EPO) and U.S. (United States Patent and Trademark Office, USPTO). Comparable data are available for many countries and long time series. However, the output of innovative activity tends to be underestimated by this type of indicator in countries like Italy, are characterized by small business and a specialization in low technology sectors. In 2007 Italy has presented more than 4,800 EPO patent applications. Data source
The employment rate of the population between 20 and 64 is one of the indicators in the strategy Europe 2020 for economic development and employment. The indicator is designed to assess the ability to use the available human resources and therefore is a measure of the structural strength of an economic system. The employment rate is calculated by dividing the number of persons aged 20 to 64 in employment by the total population of the same age group. It is based on the EU Labour Force Survey which covers the entire population living in private households and excludes those in collective households such as boarding houses, halls of residence and hospitals. Employed population consists of those persons who during the reference week did any work for pay or profit for at least one hour, or were not working but had jobs from which they were temporarily absent. Data source
International conventions define as long-term unemployed a person seeking employment for at least one year (12 months). The persistence of individuals in the state of unemployment not only constitutes a serious social problem but also signals distorted functioning of the labor market. Data source
The dependency ratio is obtained by dividing the population in active age (0 to 14 years and 65 years and over) population of working age (15 to 64 years). This ratio, which is usually multiplied by one hundred, measures the load on the population of working age population. Values above 50 percent indicates a situation of generational imbalance. Data source
The Gini index is a composite measure of the degree of inequality of income distribution and is calculated on the equivalent household income, that is made comparable by applying an equivalence scale that takes into account the changing composition of households. This index is zero in the case of a perfect equality of income distribution, assuming that all families receive the same income, is equal to one in case of total inequality, assuming that the total income is received from one family. Data source
The percentage of people over the age of 14, who are either "very much satisfied" or "quite satisfied" with their economic situation, as reported in the Istat Indagine Multiscopo "Aspetti della vita quotidiana" (Multipurpose Survey on Households: Aspects of Daily Life). People's perception of their progress and satisfaction with aspects of life are also important measures of social progress, because they indicate a degree of happiness. Data source
Poverty incidence is the proportion of families with per capita incomes below the poverty threshold. Poverty is strongly associated with the territory, the family structure (in particular to the number of components and their age), levels of education and professional profiles similarly low, as well as exclusion from the labor market. A poor family in relative terms is defined as a family with consumption expenditure equal to or below the relative poverty line, which is calculated on the basis of survey data on household consumption. Data source
But opening data is just a first step: to turn openness into transparency, the data needs to be comprehensible. This is not just about visualisation. The sheer number of datapoints in dashboards of key progress indicators is too much for the average user; he needs tools to manage that information and integrate it to see the big picture.
Recent political initiatives sought to address these problems using composite indices (Netherlands , UK , UNDP , OECD , Germany ). The idea was to present several dimensions of social progress while still not massively over-complexifying analysis by pressing all data series into one central index. Yet such methodology has been criticised as exactly not increasing transparency, because the construction of compositite indices requires assumptions to be made on how to weigh the data series that go into an index and on many other aspects of index construction. These assumptions “are either arbitrary or reflect value judgements on which there is not broad consensus” .
On the macro level, transparency of policies may then not increase as much as we would have hoped to achieve through open data. Data chunks themselves are too much to swallow, and compressing several social trends into one number assumes value judgement that leave the data "open" but that make their production process closed knowledge for most citizens.
Also Yourtopia constructs a composite index -- combining multiple dimensions of the state of affairs in Italy -- but without the arbitrary assumptions!
[Figure here: Picture of marriage between "Big open datasets" and "transparancy required for open data", Caption: "We marry the accessibility of big open datasets to the transparency required for open knowledge, by harnessing the collective intelligence of users for complex weighting decisions."]
Our approach is to build a composite index together with the user, adopting the user's assumptions. The choice of indicators and their weightings is determined through the collective intelligence of the web. The user determines the indicators and their weightings in a playful quiz, generating individualised results for regions all across the country. With the viewer and constructor of the index coinciding, we circumvent the traditional issues of composite indices: all assumptions are now open and by construction understandable by the user since he chose those items he recognises and prefers.
Yourtopia asks the user which indicator he prefers and how much, so the indicators that get assembled in the index reflect the users' assumptions on what is important - not some preset decisions based on the subjective preferences of the programmer. The decisions of all users are then combined, on a one-man-one-vote basis, to give a global ranking by all participating Italians on Italy's multidimensional progress for all regions!
Yourtopia also generates anonymous high-frequency data depicting regional variation in the public's understanding of development and their preferred indicators, with potential policy messages.
The user is hence not just a dump for information but two-way communication becomes possible. The user participates in a research-project that allows us to gauge the extent to which society can be engaged in measuring its progress.
[Find out more about Yourtopia's innovation to economic theory: Link to http://wiki.okfn.org/ProgressVote]
At a time in which many European governments build progress indices that fall into old traps of arbitrary methodological assumptions , Yourtopia equips Italy with a measure of social progress across all regions that is methodologically robust and democratically founded.
Yourtopia furthermore presents us with a chance to get to grips with what divided our regions in the past and what we need to address beyond what the newspaper headlines tell us. It furthermore provides our Northern neighbours with an insight that we now need a real collaboration, because besides all financial indicators there are further social trends here that are divisive, hold back total progress and that we need to address together.
Yourtopia so far can show trends before the current reforms. With the help of Apps4Italy we hope to be able to continuously engage with the user on a search for progress on a much wider geographic and economic resolution than normally considered in the media.
Next steps planned would be to extend Yourtopia to the whole of Europe, to show how our whole continent went into the crisis; which trends divide regions; and help identify what issues we need to tackle to jointly emerge again. Together with the users' votes we will furthermore trace and provide an innovative measure of how this progress is proceeding.
Marian Steinbach: UX design, development, Rufus Pollock: OKFN Co-Founder, Velichka Dimitrova, OKFN Economics Project Coordinator, Dirk Heine: Project Coordinator - development economics, Rosamaria Bitetti: Project Coordinator - Italy and legal issues. Special thanks to: Guo Xu, Giacomo Luchetta, João Pedro Cruz, David Raznick, Alex Cooper and all participants in the Open Economics Hackday on January 28th, 2012