Techonomy conference today, where tech innovators from around the globe are gathered to discuss how technology can tackle the world's biggest problems. It's getting controversial already, and the day just began.I'm at the
The day kicked off with a presentation about the future of the World Economic Forum's influential Global Information Technology Report, a 400-page annual study of the information and communication technology preparedness of every country in the world. Report co-author Soumitra Dutta said the rise of digital and social media calls us to consider social impacts, such as happiness and social cohesiveness, beyond mere GNP, and other factors like ecological sustainability require a reformation of the metrics in the report. Discussion quickly illuminated, however, that such changes could get complicated - and controversial - if the organization goes beyond counting how many bits can be shot through the tubes in Tunisia or Tehran.
One of the benefits of the old metrics, Dutta said today, was that they could help illuminate outlying countries in poorer regions who had come up with particularly innovative technology solutions for preparedness. The example provided from last year's report was the nation of Tunisia, however.
ReadWriteWeb readers may remember that we've written before about the Tunisian government's authoritarian control over its own citizens online. If, as was suggested today, social media and the resulting free speech were to be included as a metric in the World Bank's evaluation of various country's economic preparedness, what would that mean for investment in Tunisia or other similar countries?
Things get a little sticky when something so democratically potent becomes a part of economic metrics. Economics is much simpler when it's just cold hard cash and the ability to produce it that's being counted. The times are changing, though. The line between technology, economics and values discussions are being blurred (thankfully), and not everyone around the world is likely to be happy about that.
Is it appropriate for freedom of speech to influence the metrics an organization like the World Economic Forum publishes concerning the technological preparedness of various countries for investment and engagement?
You can read my longer coverage of the World Economic Forum's changing metrics at the Techonomy blog.