There is apparently no limit to the variety of practical, capacity-enhancing tools and services that one can find in the pandora's box of the emergent Web. Over at "NextBillion.net" Rob Katz writes:
For many of us, the combination of economic data plus policy recommendations is the literary equivalent of NyQuil. Unfortunately, good research generally requires the presentation of both data and analysis. So how do we researchers and writers solve this problem? Increasingly, the answer is short and sweet: map it.
Rob cites the Inter-American Development Bank's remittance mapping project, which "started a few years ago with a simple PDF graphic, and has since evolved into a stunning web site, complete with Flash animation and easy interactivity." Spend a few minutes on the site and it's hard not to agree with Rob. Follow his suggested link to other examples and you are taken to the Maplecroft Maps website (screen shot below). The initial impression one gets is that of boring simplicity. In fact, Maplecroft Maps turns out to be
...a highly visual, web-based resource which contains detailed country information for over 200 states and maps key social, economic, environmental and political issues and their significance to business and society.
The Maps are regularly updated with new features to make them easier and more enjoyable to use. "Learning" say the creators, "must be a pleasure." And they walk this talk by ensuring that the tool remains on the cutting edge of relevance: New issues are added to the tool at regular intervals, as well as enhancements and updates to existing issues, adding depth by incorporating new research, data, case studies and policy developments as they become available.
Maps are currently available for more than 30 issues, ranging from Aid to Water. For each issue-map, you can generate indepth analysis and other information about the situation in a given region using tabs for analysis, case studies and resources listed in a navigation bar to the right. A drop down list at the top of the bar allows the user to zoom to selected regions or countries, as illustrated below for digital inclusion and renewable energy use in Africa:
Ultimately, of course, any mapping tool can only be as good as the amount and quality of input data available. There's clearly room for further detail on both the digital inclusion and renewable energy use maps, and perhaps others. But the current shortcomings could soon be rectified as the creators of Maplecroft Maps continue to pursue their stated aim: to enhance the capacity of organisations, "enabling them to optimise their contribution to society’s goal of sustainable development."