How digital are you?
June 8, 2011 3:49 AM   Subscribe

Is there an index of digitsation? What I mean is a standard matrix to measure how digitised different companies or industries are? Digitisation in this case means how well and to what extent a company/industry/country uses digital technologies (computing, internet, access etc) to make their work more efficient.

Maybe there are examples of such a matrix used in your industry or your company which could serve as a template for a more comprehensive index?
posted by london302 to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Umm... no.

Considering that "digitization" and "efficient" are entirely undefined terms, not to mention the fact that evaluating "how well" those things are being implemented makes this a qualitative rather than a quantitative analysis, what you're asking for is not the subject of a spreadsheet on some website, it's the subject of Ph.D. theses and serious regulatory analysis. You're going to have to decide what a whole bunch of terms mean before you can even get started on something like this, and simply gathering the data is a monumental project, let alone trying to force it into some kind of apples-to-apples comparison with data gathered from all of your various sources. Which is what you'd need to do to generate something like a "standard matrix."

More to the point, almost no one has any incentive to share this kind of data, as it will likely either 1) make them look bad, or 2) disclose and potentially eliminate a competitive edge.

But really, what you're looking for may well be impossible. Take a company I used to work for. Everyone in the building has a computer. Granted, they only got them like ten years ago, but hey, they're all wired now, right? Yeah, they're all wired. And their "forms management system" consists of a huge honking directory of word processor documents--both MS Word and WordPerfect--going back to the mid-1990s with a myriad of internal formatting schemes, all hand-coded into a separate database that's older than I am and hasn't seen a purge of unused forms in over a decade. So it's hard to argue that "digitization" has made them any more "efficient." And the primary reason for this state of affairs? The head of forms development is a control freak who uses two fingers to type, so he can't actually design them himself, but can't let anyone else do it either, despite the fact that they've got about a dozen people who design and format documents for a living.*

How am I supposed to fit that kind of information into a "standard matrix" much less compare it to how another organization does things? Make up an arbitrary "digitization" and "efficiency" scale and assign numbers to it? I mean, people do that kind of thing--they're called "Customer Satisfaction Surveys"--but it's bullshit. Doesn't tell anyone anything useful about anything. It's assigning numerical values to non-numerical things and then pretending you haven't just made the numbers up, which you have.

Short answer: no, such a thing does not exist, because it probably can't.

*There are reasons I don't work for that company anymore.
posted by valkyryn at 5:39 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

"Digitization" != "efficient".

Your problem lies in assuming that a digitized organization is an efficient one. That is a poor assumption.
posted by dfriedman at 7:27 AM on June 8, 2011

dfriedman, you will notice that it is not an assumption at all. Otherwise you can just count the amount of money spent, you wouldnt need any other index.
posted by london302 at 9:27 AM on June 8, 2011

For the reasons mentioned above, I don't think this is possible either. (There does seem to be an implicit assumption in your question, if not in your research, that "digitisation" makes things efficient since the wording says "more efficient," not "more or less efficient.") I also have no idea how just counting the amount of money spent would help anything in several measures of efficiency. Not everything can be easily broken down into unit costs, nor should it be.

I was about to say that it might be easier to break the term "digitisation" down into more measurable components, for example, the percentage of households in a country have high speed internet access, but then I looked up the definition of "digitization" and it already has a defined meaning. Which is not really how you're using it, unless you're referring to very specific fields where this term is already in use (which, since you're referencing entire countries, you're not). So in addition to breaking your problem down into components and trying to get data on those, I'd change what you call this collection of components in the future.

Other things to look at would be:
1) Decide if you're looking at a country or industry or single company.
2) If you choose to look at industry, pick a specific industry or subset of industries.
3) No matter what you pick, define the actual parameters of what you consider "digitisation." I'd guess you meant something like "availability to the internet," "number of networked computers," "number of processes or parts of processes that have been automated or had the automation improved in the past X years," etc.
4) Define efficiency as it relates to whatever you're looking at. The term efficiency as it relates to whole countries' populations is meaningless.
5) Once you know specifically what attributes you're looking for across which populations, it will be easier to Google. There may even be statistics out there like "automated sorting has made Country X's postal service 50% faster." But there is no reasonable way to quantify "how computers and the internet helps other stuff be better, in general" which kind of sounds like what you're asking.
posted by wending my way at 9:52 AM on June 8, 2011

Perhaps you don't intend to make an assumption that digitization created efficiency; nonetheless, the way your question was written does suggest such an assumption.
posted by dfriedman at 11:01 AM on June 8, 2011

If you want to get a rough picture (or an idea of some of the parameters you'll have to think about, along the lines of valkyryn's answer), you could try posting a new version of this question soliciting personal experiences rather than hard data.

If you do that, I will tell you a story or two about the appalling lack of "digitization" (in the sense of "using computers for anything, including correspondence") in the grocery wholesale industry. I might also tell you a story about how "digitization" (in the sense of putting films on various video and digital formats instead of on celluloid) has made the work of film projectionists much less efficient, in certain circumstances.
posted by bubukaba at 11:07 AM on June 8, 2011

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