Inadequate information systems for international governmental decision-making processes
Other Names: Institutional arteriosclerosis
Nature: Intergovernmental organizations are used as instruments in dealing with problems which, by their nature, transcend national boundaries and are in effect regional or world-wide in scope. But it can hardly be expected that they can avoid the errors in decision-making which have afflicted the governments which control them unless adequate information is available for the decision-making process. This is now not the case. Further, unless governments themselves possess such information and are able to improve the decision-making machinery which has led to the present situation, the errors of IGOs will be compounded. The fundamental requirement for dealing with this situation has not been recognized: a common basis of processed information available to all governments and organizations.
Incidence: The technology upon which international telecommunications systems are based is developing faster than the ability of international bodies to respond. The result is a tendency for communications policies to become political rhetoric rather than practical guidelines.
Claim: The problems to be dealt with arise not in a series of bilateral relationships between governments and individual organizations, but in relation to the whole array of organizations now in existence. A decision taken in one organization ought to be considered not simply in regard to that body, but in regard to all others whose work is either directly or indirectly relevant. This may be a very large number. In the present situation, however, each government or organization makes its own investigations of more or less adequacy, drawing conclusions from differing selections of facts, all selections being inevitably incomplete. A very large proportion of the difficulties encountered in establishing a satisfactory programme arise at this point. Where matters are dealt with which, although sometimes simple in themselves, may in their consequences and relations to other actions and programmes be of great complexity, the lack of a common basis of full information aggravates the difficulty of finding an agreed intergovernmental solution. The information required is often so abundant and complex that even if it were all available, the unaided human intellect would be unable to grasp all of the factors so as to see all of their consequences in the round. In such circumstances, it is inevitable that each government or, as is often the case, the one specialist individual responsible for national policy in a complex technical matter, will seize upon certain aspects of that matter to the exclusion of others. Thus the distortion of views resulting from lack of complete information is only part of the problem: information also requires organization in order to be accessible. In an intergovernmental organization lacking this there arise divergent views which do not have their origin in real differences of interest or of policy, but which result from partial, and therefore selectively different, national or organizational approaches to the subject matter. When it is pointed out that, apart from basic factual information, governments are not even possessed of a synoptic method of seeing what is being done in all international organizations in a particular matter which they are considering, it will be understood how blundering their approach is likely to be in any one organization.
Problem Type: D: Detailed problems
Date of last update 01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET