Stockholm, London, Singapore are Global "Most Connected Cities"

The 2013 edition of Ericsson's Networked City Index ranks Stockholm, London and Singapore as top three cities among 31 measured. Few will be surprised.

Nor will many disagree with the “key finding” that information and communications technology is linked to societal, economic and environmental development. That's key language: "linked."

We sometimes like to overreach and argue that communications and information technologies "cause" economic and social development. All we really can say is that development and technology tend to be correlated.

People like lists. So the new latest Ericsson “Networked Society City Index will get attention, as will any list of sports team rankings. For some us research geeks, the methodology is more important than the list, though. 

The reason, as Ericsson says, is that “the most meaningful indicators are not always possible to measure or collect.” Some of us would add the correlation most of us assume exists between development and broadband is not "causation." It is correlation.

That said, few will quibble with the general results, which combines a number of key social, economic and environmental measures with affordability, usage and infrastructure metrics.

To be sure, everybody assumes there is a correlation between availability and use of communications and computing infrastructure, and economic and social development, in any city, or elsewhere.

The problem is that the clear correlations are not necessarily causation. Nobody really can say with absolute certainty that cities “cause” economic growth, or that growth causes cities to form.

The same “correlation without causation” can be said to exist for economic activity and broadband access, for example. We assume that good communications infrastructure contributes to economic growth. It is a reasonable assumption, if hard to prove.

Some might go further and say such infrastructure causes growth. That is where we step into a realm of belief, not science, as rational as we might try to be.

Most would agree there is correlation between high quality broadband access and economic and societal health and activity. That is why most will tend to agree with the rankings, at a high level.

That is simply to say the city index is like most human efforts at “doing science.” We can in many cases describe how something works, but we cannot always answer “why” something works (“What is the purpose?”)

We can describe inputs and outputs, and often the obvious immediate causal processes but we cannot assess “causation” in a metaphysical and universal way (“why does the universe exist?”).

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