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50 years of OECD countries at a glance
Monday, 07 February 2011

A visual overview of 50 years in OECD countries with time distance methodology

At the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the OECD SICENTER presents a visual overview across several decades of the development for all present OECD countries for selected indicators based on the time distance methodology.

Time distance concept arranges the same data from the OECD Factbook 2010 in an additional way so that data are arranged by selected levels of indicators showing in which year these levels of the indicators were achieved by given country. The level-time matrix compresses original data from the usual time series table in the Factbook 2010 in a new easily understandable way while still containing the most important information. The table-graph in yellow colour shows the range of values achieved for a given country over the period from available data. This allows for a quick level comparison of the situation across the whole set of OECD countries and individual countries as well as of how many steps over levels of indicators was achieved a given country.

The selected indicators are: life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, road fatalities, projections of population growth rates and of elderly population until 2050, employment rates, tertiary attainment, gross domestic expenditures on R&D, telecommunication access paths, gross domestic product per capita, international trade in goods and services, current account balance, and general government expenditures as percent of GDP. This additional way of presentation over many countries and many years provides a much better summary and understanding.

The level-time table-graph for share of elderly population covers the period of 100 years (1951-2050). It is difficult to imagine that the usual table of 34 countries across 100 years with 3400 entries would allow such a compressed essence of the long-term information and visualisation for a relevant perception of the situation. 

For the majority of the selected indicators it is obvious at a glance that the differences between OECD countries are large. For instance, for gross domestic expenditures on R&D, GDP per capita and tertiary attainment the indicator values for the best countries are 4 to 5 times higher than for the lowest countries. While best practices are of interest it is obvious that policies have to be differentiated and adjusted to such wide differences in the circumstances. There is a wealth of information and possible comparisons in the tables; the comments provided are just some examples of such interpretations. ‘Seeing with new eyes’, to borrow the phrase from Marcel Proust, creates new knowledge, better understanding and material for telling new development stories.    
Annex 1 shows using the example for life expectancy how the level-time matrix can lead further to derivation of two novel statistical measures: S-time-distance and S-time-step.  All three look easily understandable and are bringing even to general public additional understanding of the situation to build their perception about the disparities involved. S-time-step shows how many years were needed in the past to increase one year in life expectancy, thsi indication of dynamics depends only on the developments in the given country. The values of S-time-distance in the table compare the value for a country to the benchmark OECD average, showing the lead (-) or lag (+) in time against the OECD average.

S-time-distance perspective on the current crisis in CIRET conference New York
Thursday, 25 November 2010

Providing new insights from Business Tendency Surveys and GDP data

The paper ‘S-time-distance perspective: providing new insights of the current crisis from BTS
and GDP data’ prepared by P. Sicherl, J. Cirjaković, M. Remec was presented in the session
New Methods at the 30th CIRET Conference, New York, October 2010. The time distance
methodology deals here with the description of the current economic crisis with selected
indicators from the Business Tendency Surveys and GDP for EU and selected countries. This
makes it possible to analyse the severity of the crisis in the two dimensions: decrease in
the static index from the peak in 2008 and the S-time-distance lag indicating how many
years earlier the same levels of GDP were already achieved in the past.

The latter indicates that e.g. for EU27 this would amount to 3.3 years for 2009, 3.9 years
for 2010 and to 4.4 years for 2011. Alternatively, this means that the forecast level for 2011
would be lower than that achieved in 2007. On the other hand, S-time-distance measure
clearly shows how debt crisis has weakened the possibility of higher growth rate in the near
future. In 2011 the investment rate for EU27 would still be around 10% below 2008 value and
about at the level attained 14 years ago (about 1997 level). For the USA the investment rate in
2011 is expected to be about 13% below the 2008 value at a level before 1994 resulting in S-
time-distance of about 17 years. For investment rate Triad countries are expected to fall
back to the levels in past century which could not be perceived by looking only at the static

Comparing maximum and minimum values of ESI and GDP in the period 2007-2009 shows
different development in the declining and recovery phases. ESI for EU27 started to decline
after June 2007, while GDP started to decline after first quarter of 2008, this means
8 months later than ESI. In the declining phase ESI offered a leading warning of about 8
months, showed a fall of about 21 months from the maximum in June 2007 to the minimum
levels in March 2009, while the fall in quarterly GDP from first quarter of 2008 lasted about
15 months. In the current crisis ESI showed much higher volatility than GDP. As mentioned
before, this may indicate that much greater decline of ESI than of GDP might be a sign
that the economic sentiment goes considerably beyond GDP and include also problems
related to the decrease in the investment rate, employment and other conditions.

The examples show that more attention needs to be paid to levels and time, which means
that S-time-distance can bring about additional information for a more thorough analysis and
understanding of the situation. An obvious extension would be to repeat such analysis for
the ESI components and also on types of indicators like OECD composite leading indicators.
There are lessons that can be learned with the new methodology from comparisons
across indicators and countries and lessons from a more detailed analysis within a given

Measurement for success - The role of indicators
Monday, 15 November 2010

ICT solutions for innovative economic and social development

Centre for eGovernance Development (CeGD) and Microsoft delivered in October in Portorož, Slovenia a three-day conference event targeted at government policymakers and decision makers focused on how technology can transform the public sector in citizen services, education, and healthcare.

Professor Pavle Sicherl in his presentation discussed first the role of indicators in knowledge-based governance and its knowledge and political aspects. For efficient and transparent decision making we do not need only data and indicators but also better measures used in the analysis, presentation and semantics of discussing these issues as indispensable elements from which the perceptions and decisions are formed. Experience and databases at the international level were presented with particular focus on the ICT sector. Examples of applications of the novel generic statistical measure S-time-distance as an analytical, presentation and communication tool for benchmarking and monitoring of implementation of targets at various levels were shown. In principle they could be also applied to key performance indicators (KPI) in business. On the global level the analysis showed that the speed of diffusion of ICT sector indicates its much greater potential for catching up and becoming an important instrument to reduce world disparities.

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