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The Data Briefing: FINDing Great Global Development Data Visualizations Courtesy of the State Department

Federal agencies have been releasing some fascinating data visualization tools in the last year. Recently, the State Department unveiled the Beta version of FIND or the “F Interagency Network Databank.” From the description in the FAQ:

The F Interagency Network Databank (FIND) is an online tool that enables users to explore and analyze national level data, and then share what they discover. FIND was designed around the needs of U.S. government analysts and also benefits a broad-range of stakeholders, including the U.S. public, civil society organizations, universities, foreign aid donors, Congress and partner country governments”

The https://find.state.gov homepage.

Starting on the home page, I used Turkey as the example country. I was then taken to the visualize page where I could choose indicators, add other countries, and choose a graph. I clicked on “Economic Growth” and then chose “Employment.” My selection opened up more economic indicators. I chose “Employment in services, male” and “Employment in services, female.” Then, I chose the scatter chart from the “2 Indicators” option under the “Choose Graph” column. The final action is to push the “Build” button.

I was then taken to another page. The chart was only a single dot until I adjusted the “Year Slider” to display all of the years at once. Interesting to see how quickly the percentage of female employment in services grew in the last 25 years. Click on the “Data Table” to download a comma-separated value file to use in your favorite spreadsheet application. The “Meta Data” tab gives more information about the variables such as an extended definition and who developed it.

On the upper-right side at the top of the chart, I can create an image of the chart, save the chart, zoom in the data, and choose other ways of manipulating the chart. At the upper-left side, I clicked on the “Edit Visualization” to add another country to the visualization. Just randomly picking a country, I chose Denmark and rebuilt the visualization. Unlike Turkey, females dominate in service employment and by high percentages. You can animate the data points by choosing the play button on the Year Slider scale.

The design is well-done because it makes creating the data visualizations simple and intuitive. It took some clicking around to figure out basic features such as the Year Slider functionality. Realizing that the primary audience will be scholars and global development specialists, it would be helpful to have tutorials and other aids to help general users make sense of the visualizations they create. Why would a scatter chart be useful in visualizing two indicators? What kind of measures work best with specific chart types?

Sites like FIND are a welcome trend as more agencies release data visualization tools in Beta. First, agencies are not just releasing data but are making the data more useful and user-friendly. Second, the data visualization tools are showcasing innovative programming by the agencies. And third, data visualization sites are great ways to engage the American public. Letting citizens explore the data on their own helps educate users about the issues around the data and provides a better customer experience in using government services.Each week, The Data Briefing showcases the latest federal data news and trends. Dr. William Brantley is the Training Administrator for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Global Intellectual Property Academy. You can find out more about his personal work in open data, analytics, and related topics at BillBrantley.com. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the USPTO or GSA.

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