Definition of indicator
Although there are several approaches to explaining and applying indicators (Rodríguez Jaume, 2000), from a pragmatic point of view, this refers to a unit of measure that enables the monitoring and evaluation of a system. When it comes to the definition, the term seems to be linked to other concepts. Including the measuring concept, the variable or the index. Here we would like to provide a transparent overview of these terms so that their dependencies and overlaps can be identified and we can rule out confusion in the future.
- Variable: Generic name that refers to the set of values that can be adopted by a key figure. Example: Population.
- Measurement: numerical assignment to a reality or a phenomenon. These are the typical data that can be represented as a number or as an attribute. Example: Number of inhabitants at a given moment, which can be expressed numerically (for example, 42,670) or as an attribute (many).
- Indicator: Measure that represents a specific situation in a programme. Its function is to support decision-making. For example, the population at a given time is x (for example, 1,243).
Index (or reference): group of indicators summarized in an expression. It builds on the combination of several indicators. Example: growth rate (CI = x (t-1) / x)
- Standard (or category): A series of indexes or indicators that provide information about performance. Example: The IC is very high, high, medium or low at some point in time.
As can be seen, each term is closely related to the following. These connections are shown in the table.
The indicators must be useful and valid. That is, they must serve the purpose of the investigation and relate to the information that is to be collected.
For example, if you want to know the number of users of the public health system, the indicator must be the number of users who actually use the health system, not the number of people connected to the system in the healthcare system.
In addition to this basic feature, the literature frequently refers to the so-called SMART criteria. The SMART criteria were originally proposed for the writing of goals (Doran, 1981) for research as well as for organizations, projects or programs. Currently, however, they have been generalized to other aspects of the scientific and organizational field. SMART is the abbreviation for specific, measurable, achievable, result-oriented and time-limited.
- Specific: An indicator is specific if it is expressed clearly and precisely
- Measurable: The indicator should be expressed in such a way that it is easy to see how the size is determined.
- Achievable or feasible: As a rule, it is understood to be feasible that the indicator is suitable for the programme to be evaluated. It can also be understood that the indicator is designed so that its use is possible.
- Result-oriented: The indicator must be relevant in order to be able to measure. The data collection must match the information to be analysed
- Limited in time: The indicator must be effective within a known period of time.
Despite the usefulness of these criteria, it is clear that they come from setting goals. In any case, a review is needed to better match the field of evaluation.
Types of indicators
The indicators can be classified into countless forms: the component of the score, the degree of objectivity, the simplicity, the relativity, internal or external, etc. Ultimately, the indicators depend only on the component in which they are used:
Context indicators: These are all that gathered information about the situation in which the programme takes place, e.g. the number of people benefiting from the programme, the economic level of the population of interest, the number of patients treated, etc.
Input: Indicators that measure, inter alia, human resources involved in the programme, economic, material and socio-cultural aspects. This includes the indicators that gather data on programming and the implementation plan (economic budget, calendar planned, number of meetings planned, etc.).
Process: The indicators used here seek to gather information about how the project evolves in reality. Example: number of training sessions, evaluation of the material by the users, hours for a task, people working in a particular activity, costs of logistics of the programme, etc.
Products: These criteria seek to collect data on the impact of the programme. In this component, we must distinguish the products from the results and impacts. The products are the most immediate effects or short-term results, e.g. Number of educated people, final cost of the programme, average user rating at the end of a programme, etc. These are the interim results. This affects, for example, the change in rules in one place, wholly or partly due to the products of the programme.
Ultimately, the impact is the long-term impact of a programme, including the planned and unplanned positive and negative impacts. For example, reducing pollution in a region, changing the attitude of a part of the population in relation to a problem, the percentage of consumption of sugar-free products.
The European Union has the Eurostat webspace, where a large amount of data is made available to the public. Create a short essay with a maximum of 1000 words on the projected population development in the European Union. To do this you must look for the corresponding indicator under the indicators collected in Eurostat.
Link to Eurostat: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database
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