The security index concept is not new: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has kept a Doomsday clock, moved forward earlier this year to five minutes before midnight, for sixty years. And the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals indicators, crafted to support the 2000 Millennium Declaration, are designed to assess global progress "to create an environment — at the national and global levels alike — which is conducive to development and the elimination of poverty."
Unisys, with their just-launched security initiative, joins other private-sector organizations that publish indicators that rely on globally and longitudinally comparable measures, by which I mean measures that allow you to compare one country to another and to track trends over time. The Economist Intelligence Unit, the self-styled "world leader in global business intelligence," states that they provide a constant flow of analysis and forecasts on more than 200 countries and eight key industries. Their work focuses on economics, markets, investment and risk climates, and the like. I've studied it, for instance for a 2004 keynote I gave on Homeland Security Challenges in Data Warehousing and Analytics (slides here), and I know how compelling a strong indicator presentation can be.
Unisys's results presentation is more modest than the EIU's but unlike the EIU's findings, theirs are freely available, focus on security, and are derived from consumer polls. Unisys Vice President of Enterprise Security Tim Kelleher explains that his company's desire is to "help organizations develop and enhance products and services that adequately address the most pressing security concerns among consumers in their region." The means is periodic assessment of attitudes in the world's richest nations, attitudes that are linked to immense purchasing power.
We've quantified the likelihood of nuclear war, progress in eradicating poverty, and economic and market conditions. Each effort is as much about suggesting opportunity as it is about mitigating threats. The world is a difficult place. The Unisys announcement — and more power to them — says now more clearly than ever before that trouble is a quantifiable source of opportunity.
Seth Grimes is an analytics strategist with Washington DC based Alta Plana Corporation. He consults on data management and analysis systems.It's disconcerting to live in a world where security can be seen as delivering competitive advantage, yet that's the idea behind Unisys's Enterprise Security initiative. But after all, the company's Trusted Enterprise Model only extends the security selling point that is a marketing mainstay for financial institutions and that has been adopted or embraced by IT vendors, sometimes far too slowly, with the rise of network computing.