Visualizing worldwide education disparities with the WIDE tool: A data meatloaf

Using the recently released WIDE (World Inequal­ity Data­base on Edu­ca­tion) is part of a UN ini­tia­tive called edu­ca­tion for all. This is an exam­ple of a visu­al­iza­tion Mean years of edu­ca­tion using the tool:

WIDE visu­al­iza­tion of mean years of edu­ca­tion. Each yel­low dot rep­re­sents a region in the coun­try and is a lin­ear graph (0 — 24 years of edu­ca­tion). The black dia­mond is the coun­try aver­age. Tooltips pro­vide more data with mouseover. (Click for larger image)

It’s also pos­si­ble to view mul­ti­ple indi­ca­tors for a coun­try, for exam­ple, Domini­can Republic:

Domini­can Repub­lic from the WIDE project. Mul­ti­ple indi­ca­tors on one page. the col­ored cir­cles show the met­ric in dif­fer­ent areas (urban, rural, etc) within the coun­try. The black dia­monds show the coun­try average.

Some high level thoughts:

As data visu­al­iza­tion, does it work? My stan­dard for an info­graphic is to present a lot of data in a clear, under­standible, intu­itive way that is also accu­rate. I think the info­graphic could be more intu­itive if it included a scale and not just the end­points. The var­i­ous col­ored cir­cles are add com­plex­ity and also are not read­able as dis­crete dat­a­points, so give an odd blending.

As accu­rately show­ing data? There are a lot of biases in the scales picked and it seems more like advo­cacy than explain­ing truth. Com­pared to the advo­cacy map­pling like Michael Kidron’s Atlas of the World which is blunt and sim­ple in its advo­cacy, this is dif­fi­cult to under­stand the key points and what it is try­ing to say. The graph­ics are facile, but don’t really present clearly and objec­tively what they mean.

And the data under­ly­ing it? It seems like they have picked a vari­ety of years and sources; it’s unclear if it is “data meat­loaf” made of mys­tery ingre­di­ents or well orga­nized datasets that feed the graphs.

Over­all an inter­est­ing effort, but the graph­ics fail to sum­ma­rize a large vol­ume of data and the lack of clar­ity of data sources under­mine this. The inter­ac­tiv­ity as a web graphic is good, as is the abil­ity to export and share.

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