United Nations mashups: Visualizing world challenges

08.04.2008 | Christian Kreutz

It is quite exciting to see that the United Nations and their different branch-organizations are slowly harnessing the potential of the web in innovative ways. I have previously blogged about the idea of a huge interesting UN aggregator project and the UNDP water wiki during the last web4dv conference. To offer openly information sources and especially to visualize information is essential to understand our complex word from different perspectives.

Gapminder is a great example for that. And another one is the tactical technology collective with this booklet: Visualizing Information for Advocacy: An Introduction to Information Design.

It is promising to see that UN organizations such as UNEP follows the same steps and offers the Atlas of Our Changing Environment on Google Maps:

Through illustrations, satellite images, ground photographs and powered by Google Maps, this interactive media depicts and describes humanity's past and present impact on the environment.

Today also UNHCR announced a mashup with Google Earth Outreach program, "which punveiled a powerful new online mapping programme that provides an up-close and multifaceted view of some of the world's major displacement crises and the humanitarian efforts aimed at helping the victims."

Here is the actual site, but you need Google Earth to load it.

Patrick Philippe Meier writes about it: "the next step for an iRevolution is to enable refugees to access this information on a regular basis. This need not require high-technology. The information could be broadcast by radio, for example." I believe it will become even more effective when refugees themselves can add information and update those visualized contexts from their perspective.

One other excellent source was recently launched, UNdata, with over 55 million records and comprehensive statistics.