Index Inquisition, Incursions, Insides, Insights

Author: Joyce Coffee

Earlier this month, the Economist warned about the vagaries of Index.  I’ve written about this, too.  And I agree we must be careful about reading too much into Index.  But, as a journalist who interviewed me recently pointed out, “Journalists love them,” and in the Economist’s case, that seems to be true.

Following on its November 8 article, the Economist’s next issue carried an article on sexual harassment in Canada and referenced the World Economic Forum’s rankings of countries by gender inequality. In yet another article about growing globalization, the author cited the DHL Global Connectedness Index.  I’m an eager consumer of the Economist and, in each issue, I run across about two index references (not to mention the favorite worldwide index:  The Economists’ Own Big Mac index).

I’m proud to say that ND-GAIN gets it right, according to the Economists’ 1, 2, 3 guide to better international country rankings: We don’t tweak the weightings to suit, don’t substitute data when a country is lacking it, and use only data globally available, national in scope and verifiable. We publish our full methodology (and all of our data and framework too) free and open to the public.  We raise caveats and describe our choices in this document.  We agonized for 18 months over what to put in our index and sought our indicators from the literature and from experts in the field.

With ND-GAIN, we are eager to catch people’s attention and make information easy to process.  The Economist notes that “ratings and rankings can be powerful tools of both branding and influence.” They can help shape new policy.

We’ve just released the 2014 version of the Index and have made improvements, such as opting for

  • Consistent terminology in vulnerability sectors so that a single definition of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity applies across all sectors.
  • Distinction among sectors and vulnerability components to minimize conceptual overlap within the Index; e.g., the combination of energy and coastal infrastructure under a single infrastructure sector.
  • More flexibility for downscaling portions of the Index to allow integration with Geographic Information Systems.
  • Equal weighting between all sectors (vulnerability) and components (readiness).
  • Responsive to user feedback in adjustments to indicators of economic readiness.

We’ve also made it easier for those Economist journalists (and others!) to use:

ND-GAIN’s web-portal. It now includes new computational tools to facilitate ease of use, to allow more data visualization and to enable tracking individual indicators and country grouping, including the:

  • Ability to visualize each indicator, sector and area on line graphs and spider graphs.
  • Ability to graphically compare indicators, sectors and areas of two nations or groups of nations.

Capability to download all indicators, sector scores, and ND-GAIN scores.