Here at import•io we often talk of the opportunities a web of data holds for instigating social and environmental change. It is our conviction that today’s data can prevent problems tomorrow and that in democratising access to data, our technology can allow people to hold their governments accountable in a way that hasn’t been previously possible.
A Different Perspective
It is easy for all of us to look at datasets without context, seeing it as no more than well-structured words and numbers. Following a dataset through from its creation to the point where its impact can be measured requires both the right technology, and a new way of seeing the possibilities of data on the web. Spotting something on a web page and turning it into a table of rows and columns to do something different is what our recent work with Oxfam has shown is possible: that one dataset can start something big.
We recently gave our friends at Oxfam a dataset with all the men and women listed on Forbes’ list of The World’s Billionaires. With over 1400 entries, we extracted data such as these billionaire’s age, sex, country of citizenship, net worth and source of wealth, among other things. On the site it looked like any other window into the world of the rich and rare and in a dataset it looked like any other spreadsheet, but for us and for Oxfam it presented a golden opportunity to delve deeper, to look at our countries rich and to look at our countries poor. We found that Britain’s five richest families are worth more than the poorest 20%. Read the full story.
Real-time data and research provides a real-time perspective on the world, but most importantly, it prompts action. Oxfam are now urging the Chancellor to use Wednesday’s budget to make make a fresh attack on tax avoidance – a plea which if followed through will ensure measures are in place to lessen the ever-growing divide between rich and poor. If datasets such as these can trigger a chain of events, they themselves can be seen as an opportunity to stage a global conversation.
What our work with Oxfam has shown is that data can be a catalyst and gives all of us the opportunity to ask new questions about the world in which we live. We will continue working with NGOs like Oxfam as well as advocates and volunteers who see the opportunities that data provides and help them continue to ask innovative and challenging questions about the world, in the same way we help both new and existing businesses challenge their respective . We also want you to do something with the data we have collected! Have a look at Forbes’ billionaire data set on import•io and see what you can find out!