03 February 2012 Ideas

Measuring what matters

Traffic, weather, stock markets, gas prices, the value of the Canadian Dollar… Traditional broadcast media bombards us with real-time updates about these indicators throughout the day.

Because we’re told about every dip and surge in the stock market, our society pays attention. We watch the markets and ascribe value to them, not least because they affect many of our bank accounts.

Knowledge is power, and the more information we have access to, the better off we will be. Up-to-the-minute traffic updates on the radio can help us adapt to unexpected delays and find a quicker route home. This is a good thing.

But there are huge gaps in access to real-time information. There are other factors that impact our day-to-day lives more directly than the TSX, but are hardly reported at all.

Imagine the evening news reporter saying something like this: “Strong winds across the province today caused a spike in wind energy, pushing the share of turbine-powered electricity over 10 percent. The surge allowed coal-fired and natural gas plants to wind down, resulting in a 2-point drop in the air quality index.”

This isn’t just speculation. The real-time information for these measures exists, somewhere. The challenge is to liberate it and make it accessible to the average citizen.

So that’s what I’ve begun to do.

I’m developing a website that shows, at a glance, how our society is doing right now in areas such as electricity generation, air quality, and crime. (I mean actual measurements of criminal activity, not just lopsided reporting of the most sensational cases.)

My goal is to have these indicators of social well-being reported on CBC Radio with the same frequency as the traffic and weather updates.

The website probably won’t be ready for a public unveiling until the spring, but I want to start getting other people involved sooner.

So this is where you come in. What else do you want to see reported on the news? Rates of charitable giving? Organic food production? Deaths by automobile accident? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll try my best to hound them down.

Sam Nabi


Goaliedave 6 February 2012, 22:03

excellent as usual Sam, great work! Maybe add water quality or quantity next?

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