What are Indicators, and where do they come from?

For development and planning to take place with a reasonable chance of success, authorities and stakeholders need access to objective information which points out facts and numbers about problem areas and can help them identify the status and scale of what they’re dealing with. In this regard, indicators play a significant role in highlighting problems, helping identify trends, and can provide crucial information for setting priorities.

Definition of Indicators

The word “Indicator” is used by different people to mean different things, which can sometimes cause contradictions with other definitions.  In this text, the use of the term “Indicators” refers to

“A characteristic or an entity that can be measured to estimate status and trends of the targeted environmental resource”

The most suitable Indicators take the otherwise abstract notions within problem areas, and attach an objective / numerical scale to them, allowing stakeholders to pinpoint problems effectively.
They allow the policy formation process to exist with some confidence and help in the evaluation and monitoring of progress. They essentially help us understand complex data in a simpler way A great resource on the role of indicators is here.

Role of ICTs in data acquisition

ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) can help us obtain data for the calculation of these indicators. In the old days, manual methods (trained spotters for car counting, surveys, actual car rides for travel time estimation etc.)were adopted for lack of an alternative, but it is known that typical data sources for these indicators are now largely technology based, a trend that is likely to continue.

An investigation by AECOM (an American multinational engineering firm) into where the data for indicators used in EU policy-making actually comes from, reveals the following:

Data Source Frequency Percentage
Systems Data (ITS) 57 29%
Traffic Counts 33 17%
Journey Time 29 15%
User Surveys 18 9%
Tachographs 16 8%
Accident Data 14 7%
Incident Logs 9 5%
Automatic Number Plate Recognition Cameras 6 3%
Passenger/people counters 4 2%
Police records 3 2%
Sales data 2 1%
Cooperative Systems/ Social Media 2 1%
Investment Costs 1 1%
Hospital Records 1 1%

Summarised sources of data typically used in adopted KPIs. (From “Study on key performance indicators for intelligent transport systems”– Payne,2015)

As a reliable source of information, Indicators play a vital role in fields such as Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning, where accurate data can hugely impact decision making.

Chirag is a Media Technologist Originally from the Himalayan region of Shimla (India). He holds a MSc in “Medientechnologie” from the German University TU-Ilmenau, and a bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering.
Passions include drones, cameras, astrophysics, and making life here on planet earth a little bit better.

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