Policy by the Numbers

Data for sound policymaking from Google and friends


Why data matters for public policy

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

“The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers.” - Richard Hamming

As a computer scientist and engineer, I’ve always been fascinated by the process that determines how policies and institutions are created. Unlike computing systems, policymaking is anything but binary. An unpredictable combination of special interests, money, hot topics, loyalties and many other factors shape legislation that passes into law.

Now, more than ever, we need to use data to build sound policy frameworks that facilitate innovative breakthroughs. In order to inspire confidence in the future (and the markets), governments have to lead by using today’s facts to place big bets on—not against—a better tomorrow.

To get conversations rolling, Google’s public policy team will be sharing data insights here on this blog. We’ll also be inviting researchers, policymakers and thought leaders to contribute their interpretations of various data sets and what they mean for public policy. This forum will be open to ideas, and we welcome everyone to leave comments discussing their opinions.

Measurement and analysis provide the checks and balances we need to build a better future in the information age. When we don’t examine the numbers, policy is all too often created at the expense of the next generation. The Internet generates 2.6 jobs for every one lost, and today the world’s data is doubling every two years. We need to make sure that we sustain the laws that got us the open Internet we have today, and that sound policies are in place to keep this unparalleled engine of growth going.

Public discussions that are grounded in numbers reveal whether laws are effective and relevant or failing to protect citizens’ interests. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts; the facts speak for themselves and it is folly to ignore them. With this blog, we hope to spark policy debates, foster discussions among policymakers and constituents and help citizens exercise their right to hold governments accountable.

posted by Vint Cerf, Internet architect and policy enthusiast

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