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Create dynamic map visualizations with this awesome free tool by Google

November 04, 2018 3 min read

Create dynamic map visualizations with this awesome free tool by Google

By Ishveena Singh

Google has created all sorts of amazing tools like Search, Gmail, Maps, etc., which we use in everyday life, but there are several little-known projects by Google that never received their fair share of the limelight. Google Public Data Explorer is one of those hidden gems.

One of Google’s first data-accessibility projects, Public Data Explorer was launched in 2010 as an experimental product by Google Labs. The tool collates large, public-interest datasets from organizations like World Bank, World Economic Forum, International Monetary Fund, Eurostat, etc., as well as from governments of the United States, United Kingdom, Iceland, and Ireland.

Why we love this online dashboard is not just because it makes useful information easy to access, but also because it presents the data in a format which is very easy to comprehend and communicate. You don’t need to be an expert to mash up data using line graphs, bar graphs, bubble charts or – our favorite – maps. Simply search through databases from around the world and watch the rich visualizations animate over time to clearly reflect the changes that have occurred on a year-on-year basis in areas like minimum wages, unemployment, fertility rates, etc.

For example, the interactive visualization uses World Development Indicators data from World Bank to show the relation between life expectancy and number of children per woman for each country in the world. Google Public Data Explorer conveniently sizes the bubbles by population and colors them by region. It’s interesting to note how the bubble for China grows rapidly in the late 60's and 70's, but then the implementation of the one-child policy leads to a drop in the number of children per woman.

And just like we have embedded this map into our post, journalists and policymakers can play around with Public Data Explorer to supplement their reports with rich visualizations. Teachers can also use this fantastic tool to acquaint their students with the complex topic of data analysis and map visualizations.

Since the embedded maps are updated automatically, you can be sure that you are sharing the latest available data. And even though the onus to do update public data into Google’s system lies with the participating agencies, there are already billions of possible charts to explore.

But the best part is that you can visualize your own data with Google Public Data Explorer. Click on the “My Datasets” link on the left hand side of the dashboard and describe your dataset using the Dataset Publishing Language (DSPL) – an open, XML-based metadata format optimized for data visualization. Basically, the DSPL dataset is a bundle containing an XML file and a set of CSV files. The CSV files are simple tables containing the data of the dataset, while the XML file would describe the metadata of the dataset, such as the descriptions of measure and references between tables. You can find out more about DSPL in this handy tutorial by Google and watch the following video to learn how you can import your own datasets into the tool:

Official data providers can also get their data added to Google’s directory by filling out a simple form.

About the Author

Photo of Ishveena SinghIshveena is a geospatial enthusiast and a veteran of creating and managing compelling digital content for organizations and individuals. When she is not making magic at her desk, you are likely to find her exploring nature, eating her way through life, or binge-watching funny animal videos.