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Visualising travel data for the FCO

Alongside the big brands and charities we work with at NixonMcInnes, we’ve also got a solid history of working with public sector clients. Several members of the team are really passionate about this side of our business, and as a team of people who believe technology is fundamentally changing the worlds we live in, we get huge satisfaction from helping those huge bodies adapt.

We’ve been working with the Consular Services at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for the past year, and alongside more organisational level work we work on campaigns that inform British travellers in some way, which is interesting but also challenging as it’s a pretty big audience.

A recent campaign was the launch of the British Behaviour Abroad 2012 report. Showing consular statistics for all kinds of cases including but not only arrests and detentions, this is always a hot topic with the press and with ministers, and in 2012 the FCO were keen that as broad an audience as possible had access to the information. This is a solid aim, but sadly the information itself is pretty dry; it’s a spreadsheet of countries and numbers. We wanted a format that displayed the information in a more engaging way, but also a format that would be useful in itself. We considered infographics, but quickly settled on an interactive map; we believed that this would:

  • Bring the data to life in a quick and accessible way.
  • Create a template for future uses of FCO data.
  • Allow for neat functionality like adding links to specific FCO information in relevant places, and for the whole thing to be embeddable.

I’m no techie so will allow Steve (our previous head of applied tech) to explain the magic* behind the map, but what I liked about the process was the way that we integrated with the Guardian. The Guardian’s data blog had produced a great resource using the previous years data, and so we wanted to produce our map in that way that would be useful to them, and avoided overlap. We spoke with the team at the data blog, showing them an early prototype and discussing functionality; they were really enthusiastic and eventually used our map in their site. As did several others including the Daily Mail and Sky, which was nice.

So to wrap up, a big thank you to Steve for his tech wizardry and to the FCO for being adventurous and smart clients. Should probably thank Max too as the chap leading our work with the FCO and generally providing real public sector expertise.

*powered by Google Fusion tables, data wrangling done in Google Refine, coding done in Javascript/HTML/CSS

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