On the Charts: FCC, Software Provider Put Map-making Tools into Citizens’ Hands

An image of the mapping process, Photo: FortiusOne

The 2009 Open Government Directive promised the feds would free the data. And, more than 2,000 datasets on everything from crime statistics to healthcare stats have been posted on Data.gov since the initiative was launched.

Open government advocates cheered.

But, in the meantime, some have questioned the amount of actual useful information posted to the site, while others just wondered how they could actually use the data.

Along comes IssueMap, an online mapping site that enables users to quickly map data and share it through social networks.

The Federal Communications Commission teamed up with location-analysis software provider FortiusOne to create the application. The creators say it’s as simple as “copy, paste, map”: Users can go from a spreadsheet to a “shareable map” in less than 60 seconds.

The 2009 Open Government Directive theoretically opened the floodgates in terms of access to government data. But, “without a simple way to visualize and add context to this data, it has remained largely untapped by the public,” FortiusOne said in a release.

Sample map, Photo: FortiusOne

Michael Byrne, FCC’s first-ever geographic information officer said, “IssueMap is a solution to a common problem in the private and public sectors — developing easy-to-understand visuals to help explain complicated datasets.”

He touted the tool’s ability to work on a large-scale as well as  small, down to the Census-block, he said. “IssueMap is powerful enough for heavy lifting and simple enough for anyone to use. We’re thrilled with this product and excited to see how IssueMap is put to use.”

The site uses GeoIQ, a FortiusOne data management, visualization and analysis platform.

For the user, the website greeting would-be cartographers is simple and user friendly, which Sean Gorman, president and founder of FortiusOne, said is the point.

“We built GeoIQ to enable non-technical users to easily make sense of data,” he said. “IssueMap capitalizes on those core capabilities, enabling citizens to bring greater awareness of important issues and prompt action.”

Click here for a tutorial on how to use the site.

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