Role of Big Data and AI in developing Ireland’s Social Progress Indicator (SPI)

13 January 2021
Role of Big Data and AI in developing Ireland’s Social Progress Indicator (SPI)

Friday 21st February RDS Dublin 

Prof Cal Muckley, academic colleague with the ADAPT Centre led Fin Tech Fusion programme and Professor of Finance at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, has launched a discussion paper showing why and how Ireland ought to lead the world in the development of a Social Progress Indicator (SPI).

Prof Muckley’s paper will advance the why and how Ireland can develop data science around the delivery of key state services to citizens, aligning scarce public resources to measurable outcomes that eliminates the guesswork and replaces it with hard data, soft data surveys and Artificial Intelligence. A Social Progress Indicator (SPI) , properly implemented, can act as a counterfoil to GDP and replace ‘trickle down’ with scientifically measured results, thus generating real time feedback to citizens, public administrators and Governments alike.

Throughout the lively audience discussion at the RDS on Friday 21st February chaired by Eddie Hobbs, Prof Muckley showed in detail how the epoch of big data could be harnessed to collate hard data, live surveys and Artificial Intelligence into a consolidated Social Progress Indicator and how the sub components could provide policymakers with live and dynamic feedback to help better allocate State resources. Prof Muckley highlighted that any current surveys could be integrated, provided they met the independent standards of data science set by an appropriate panel of data scientists who he envisaged would be tasked with scoping out a SPI for Ireland, commencing with a pilot study.

Prof Muckley stated that : “A grass root SPI for the Irish people and by the Irish people, can effectively enable, in a systemic and impactful way, the monitoring of the quality of Ireland’s state services. It is not prompted by the European Union nor is it part of any international commitment, it is rather Ireland taking a leadership role to address our clear problems. It is the voice of the Irish people measured scientifically and regularly and is very different to GDP. It complements national income statistics and should be reported alongside such statistics as a matter of course”

Abstract Summary

A Social Progress Indicator is a survey instrument, which combined with objective data, can evaluate the impact and quality of state services. The areas of state intervention envisaged include child and long-term care services, education, environment, health, housing, public transport, state pension system and security of the citizen.

In this discussion paper, we present the main arguments that a Social Progress Indicator can provide a valuable and novel supplementary measurement of national well-being for Ireland, and that Ireland has an opportunity to act as a global leader in this context. We also provide, at an executive level, guidelines regarding a methodology to construct a Social Progress Indicator for Ireland.

The question of how to measure the quality of delivery of state services is complex and challenging.  A rigorously constructed Social Progress Indicator can play a critically important and informative role. In this vein, we provide executive level recommendations on the data science of representative sampling, sub-index aggregation, and we include a justification for a pilot study and the management of user expectations. We also highlight how a machine learning approach, in the form of textual analytics, can play an important role in aggregating feedback from the citizens of the state.

We provide the first evaluation of arguments for a Social Progress Indicator, as a metric to capture the quality of state services in Ireland, with a view to enhancing national well-being. Download full paper here

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