The Vilnius authorities are asking residents to score their mood, with the aim of gauging – and raising – the city’s happiness level.
Lithuania, which was very adversely affected by the 2008-2009 financial crisis, came out as one of the least happy of the 58 countries surveyed in 2011 by the WIN-Gallup Association for its Global Barometer of Hope and Happiness. Now the municipal authorities of the capital Vilnius have just put in place a system whose ultimate goal is to boost the happiness quotient of its residents. Called ‘Happy Barometer’, the system quizzes inhabitants about their mood and displays the average score on a giant digital screen, thus giving an idea of the general mood of the city.
People’s feelings moving the barometer
Citizens with smartphones or computers are invited to register their happiness level on a scale of 0 to 10, having first indicated the city where they live. You can vote afresh every hour. Vilnius-based IQ Polls, an interactive polling system originally designed to measure customer satisfaction, then collects the data and calculates the average score of the city. During the first week following its launch in July, the Happy Barometer in Vilnius received more than five thousand votes, recording an average score of 6.1 out of 10. Giant digital open air screens have been set up around the city, showing a smiley and displaying the hourly results. The system will also allow scores from different cities around the world to be compared.
A usefool tool for decision makers?
This is not the first time that a country has tried to create a happiness index for its residents. Some years ago Bhutan announced it was replacing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by what it called Gross National Happiness (GHN). “However the drawback is that most of these indices still generally rely on economic criteria,” underlines Arturas Jonkus, co-founder of IQ Polls and originator of the Happy Barometer. By contrast, the intention behind the Happy Barometer is to “encourage people around the world to smile more and share good emotions,” he explains. Meanwhile Vilnius mayor Arturas Zuokas insists that the Barometer is a “great tool for politicians,” pointing out that: “If we take a decision and see a sharp fall in the mood of the city, then we know we have done something horribly wrong.”