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M A R C H 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
transparent public poli-
cies to encouraging more
consistent and transpar-
ent international market-
Such transparency,
however, also drives com-
petition among countries
to achieve more effective
policy environments in
order to attract invest-
ment and business activ-
ity. This competition, in
turn, rewards those coun-
tries that embrace these
new technologies and use
them to capture, utilize
and display their data.
Visualization needn’t be the cre-
ation of highly specific technical
artistry, however. It is desirable for the
process to flow down to workers who
typically work with word processing
and spreadsheet applications. To note
just one of the many online tools freely
available to the public, IBM’s Many
Eyes can support data visualization
with any dataset and requires no soft-
ware download. It also al-
lows users to rapidly import
data from a spreadsheet,
database or other digital
file format.
One can easily map a
single parameter for geo-
graphic context —as shown
in the diagram at right with
Standard &Poor’s sovereign
debt ratings—or layer mul-
tiple parameters to explore
more complex relationships.
For a public institution
like the State Department,
there are two broad appli-
cations for data visualiza-
tion. First and foremost, it
has great potential to ad-
vance mission objectives. But we
should also consider its role in chang-
ing public expectations of government
and the importance of disseminating
government data in an open and trans-
parent way for the general public to
interact with and use.
This dual-hatted approach reflects
an Obama administration priority out-
lined in the Initiative. It also
positions State for a leadership role in
a growing, international, open govern-
ment movement. Such disciplines
may well improve the credibility and
effectiveness of our international mes-
saging and policy advocacy.
Visualizing Data at State
The Department of State has long
been a vast producer, consumer and
OECD’s national well-being visualization.
IBMMany Eyes visualization of sovereign debt ratings, August 2011.