The launch of the Global Adaptation Index (GaIn) literally puts a powerful open data browser into the hands of anyone with a connected mobile device. The index rates a given country’s vulnerability to environmental shifts precipitated by climate change, its readiness to adapt to such changes, and its ability to utilize investment capital that would address the state of those vulnerabilities.
The Global Adaptation Index combines development indicators from 161 countries into a map that provides quick access to thousands of open data records. All of the data visualizations at gain.globalai.org are powered by indicators that are openly available and downloadable under a Creative Commons license.
“All of the technology that we’re using is a way to bring this information close to society,” said Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño, the director of science and technology at the Global Adaptation Institute (GAI), the organization that launched the index.
Open data, open methodology
The project was helped by the World Bank’s move to open data, including the release of its full development database. “All data is from sources that are already open,” said Ian Noble, chief scientist at GAI. “We would not use any data that had restrictions. We can point people through to the data source and encourage them to download the data.”
Being open in this manner is “the most effective way of testing and improving the index,” said Noble. “We have to be certain that data is from a quality, authoritative source and be able to give you an immediate source for it, like the FAO, WHO or disaster database.”
“It’s not only the data that’s open, but also our methodology,” said Nuño. “Data.WorldBank.org is a really good base, with something like 70% of our data going through that portal. With some of the rest of the data, we see lots of gaps. We’re trying to make all values consistent.
Node.js powers the data browser
“This initiative is a big deal in the open data space as it shows a maturing from doing open data hacking competitions to powering a portal that will help channel billions of investment dollars over the next several years,” said Development Seed associate Bonnie Bugle in a prepared statement. Development Seed built the site with open source tools, including Node.js and CouchDB.
The choice of Node is a useful indicator, in terms of where the cutting edge of open source technology is moving. “The most important breakthrough is moving beyond PHP and Drupal — our initial thought — to Node.js,” said Nuño. “Drupal and PHP are robust and well known, but this seems like the next big thing. We really wanted to push the limits of what’s possible. Node.js is faster and allows for more connections. If you navigate countries using the data browser, you’re just two clicks away from the source data. It doesn’t feel like a web page. It feels native.”
Speed of access and interoperability were important considerations, said Nuño. “It works on an iOS device or on a slow connection, like GPRS.” Noble said he had even accessed it from rural Australia using an iPad.
Highlights from the GAI press conference are available in the following video: