Luigi Einaudi, a former president of the Italian Republic and a renowned economist, famously said that politicians needed to "know in order to decide". Today, however, if decisions are made on the basis of data referring to the present or the past, serious errors may ensue due to the complexity of the challenges we face. In fact, we find ourselves coping with crises in the fields of agriculture and nutrition, the environment, finance, and politics, all of which have suddenly made us aware of just how vulnerable the "rich" world is. This is why mere numbers are not enough; we also need reliable forecasting models to allow us to make the leap from submissive acceptance of uncertainty to conscientious risk management. We are undergoing a massive cultural transformation; therefore professionals who are appointed to measure phenomena in the name of the people must be receptive towards new ideas from external sources, ready to reassess old habits, and avoid obsessive self-reference. Many countries are now ready to enact a permanent census and a thoughtful use of Big Data in order to finally transform information into knowledge.
Enrico Giovannini teaches Economic Statistics at the Tor Vergata University in Rome. After having been Director of Statistics and Chief Statistician at the OECD, he was President of the Italian Statistical Bureau (ISTAT) from 2009 to 2013; in April 2013 he became Minister of Labour in the Italian government.