Weighing Indices in the UN E-Government Survey

The United Nations E-government Survey index is a weighted combination of three indices:

  • Web Measure, which represents the sophistication level of online citizen services.
  • Human Capital, which represents the education level of a country.  This index is again weighted with two-third weight of adult literacy and one-third to weights to enrollment.
  • ICT Infrastructure, which represents the infrastructure in a country. This is again average weighted including  number of computers per person, telephone lines, mobile phones etc.

These three are all weighted equally contributing 1/3 to the score, which means that formally the e-readiness is as following:
E-readiness =

1/3 * Web Measure +

1/3 * Human Development +

1/3 * ICT Infrastructure

An interesting question that follows is what happens if we assign other weights to these indices For example, if we change the weights, can we also change the ranking a country gets?

Using Monaco as an example, it was ranked as member state number 112 in the UN e-readiness survey 2010. However, by adjusting weights of the three indices, we can change the ranking of Monaco from 112 up to 25, or down to 184.

In the following plot, possibile combination from 10% up to 80% of the three indicies are plotted and the corresponding ranking of Monaco.

Ranking of Monaco when weighting the indicies Web Measure, Human Capital and ICT Infrastructure differently

Similarly, the following graphs how the top five member states, according to the E-readiness ranking in the 2010 survey, would rank if different weights would be used.

Ranking of the top five countries with different weights

(Note that for reason of clarity some weightings have deliberatly been removed).

The question which naturally arises is:

Why does the current E-readiness index use equal weights, and is this any more correct than any weights?

Thanks do Deniz Susar for input on this idea.

4 Responses to Weighing Indices in the UN E-Government Survey

  1. Rohin Khurana says:

    I feel that the ideology behind using equal weights was that web measure index measures the efficacy of the supply side while Human Capital and Infrastructure measure how enabled the citizens are. In fact all three are important for effective, inclusive eGovernment. But should they be given equal weights?

    I think that though all three should be tracked, they should not be given equal importance. This is for the simple reason that improvement in web measure can be done through swift measures but not the other two. They need long term measures, especially for large developing countries like India, China and Brazil.

    To make this clear, India ranks fairly well for web measure assessment and the indices for Human Capital and infrastructure would also be reasonably well for Indian Urban Areas which means that the urban populations are enabled to access eGovernment benefits. The rural populations will be enabled through long term measures. However, this does not mean that the eGovernment in country is not as good as its peers.

    Hence, for these reasons the three indices should not have equal weightages and a low rank in the eGovernment Index does not mean that there are minimal eGovernment initiatives in the country.

    • Hi Rohin,
      Yes, I see the reasoning behind choosing equal weights. Furthermore, I completely agree with your arguments on why the three indicis should not have equal weights.
      What the exact weights should be is a more difficult question to answer. Any suggestions?

  2. chihab bouchnak says:

    I think that “Usage indicators” are the answer to evaluate e-government programand projects. Measuring some e-governement “pillars” criteria whatever ther weights are is so much subjective.


  3. Ed Downey says:

    I just finished a book on government web sites and that led to some web 2.0 research questions regarding civic engagement and the relationships between citizens and all levels of government:

    1. How has Web 2.0 changed relationships?
    2. What are the affects of the changes in relationships caused by Web 2.0?
    3. Have Web 2.0 effects been beneficial?

    If you are interested in contributing to a book that looks at these questions please see the call for chapters at: http://www.igi-global.com/AuthorsEditors/AuthorEditorResources/CallForBookChapters/CallForChapterDetails.aspx?CallForContentId=83a379cb-7965-453b-8b6c-8210bfcda664

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