Rob Katz

What’s in a Map?

South America GlobeFor 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.

The Inter-American Development Bank has taken the mapping lesson to heart. Economists at IDB use maps to illustrate the massive amount of remittances flowing into Latin America. The remittance mapping project 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. That’s just one example–others are using maps to great effect.

Remittances were once a forgotten topic in both the development and business communities, but IDB’s maps helped bring it to the forefront. Keep that history in mind as you review the agenda for next week’s ?Building Opportunity for the Majority? conference, when the IDB will launch a new economic map of Latin America.

Economic map of Latin America sounds a bit vague–maybe that’s IDB’s intention. The full map will come out next week, but I know for a fact that one element of the project is mapping the BOP. Similar to the simple PDF of Latin American remittance flows that first came out in 2001, IDB and WRI will publish a map showing the size and scope of the BOP in 20 Latin American countries. Supporting the front line data are detailed looks at key sectors including housing, water, energy, health, telecom, and financial services, and an analysis of the so-called ?BOP penalty.? Is this a tired list of development problems? When written, perhaps–but when mapped, the data come alive. I guarantee you?ll be awake for this one.