I had some fruitful conversations with colleagues at the UN this week and learned about an interesting initiative called the MDG Monitor. The platform is being developed in collaboration with the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping (PIIM).
The purpose of the MDG Monitor is to provide a dynamic and interactive mapping platform to visualize complex data and systems relevant to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The team is particularly interested in having the MDG Monitor facilitate the visualization of linkages, connections and relationships between the MDGs and underlying indicators: “We want to understand how complex systems work.”
The MDG Monitor is thus designed to be a “one-stop-shop for information on progress towards the MDGs, globally and at the country level.” The platform is for “policymakers, development practitioners, journalists, students and others interested in learning about the Goals and tracking progress toward them.”
The platform is under development but I saw a series of compelling mock-ups and very much look forward to testing the user-interface when the tool becomes public. I was particularly pleased to learn about the team’s interest in visualizing both “high frequency” and “low frequency” data. The former being rapidly changing data versus the latter slow change data.
In addition, the platform will allow users to drill down below the country admin level and overlay multiple layers. As one colleague mentioned, “We want to provide policy makers with the equivalent of a magnifying glass.”
Perhaps most impressive but challenging is the team’s interest in combining spatial analysis with social networking analysis (SNA). For example, visualizing data or projects based on their geographic relationships but also on their functional relationships. I worked on a similar project at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) back in 2006, when colleagues and I developed an Agent Based Model (ABM) to simulate internal displacement of ethnic groups following a crisis.
Agent Based Model of Crisis Displacement
As the screenshot above depicts, we were interested in understanding how groups would move based on their geographical and ethnic or social ties. In any case, if the MDG Monitor team can combine the two types of dynamic maps, this will certainly be a notable advance in the field of crisis mapping.