Using Maps to Share Information in a Visual and Engaging Way

Maps have always been important. They tell us where we are and where we are going. Now, GPS is common, and everyone has digital maps in their pockets via their smartphones. We map our activities and share that information with the world. We check in, Google where we are going next to find the best route and even avoid traffic.

However, there is a bigger “where are we going?” than the quickest route to Starbucks from my current location. The global economy is booming, climate change is making us shift the way we think about the world, and maps are telling the story. Parag Khanna, a global strategist and author of Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization has, using mapping, illustrated this in an astonishing way.

He puts forth some controversial opinions, but in an interview with the Washington Post, he uses six maps to illustrate his points. One of the most fascinating is the map of the “new silk roads” being built by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. “Europe’s trade with China is almost equal to that of its trade with America,” he says. “Just imagine how big that economic bloc will be when all of those trade corridors are complete and you have seamless transportation between Europe and Asia.”

Map of Asian trade routes. Source: Parag Khanna, "Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization"

Map of Asian trade routes. Source: Parag Khanna, “Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization”

What does a more global economic strategy mean in the world of GIS? It all relates back to one simple thing: maps can be used to share information in a visual and engaging way. We have better maps and data than we have ever had before.

Businesses are leveraging these maps and the information they contain and illustrate as they spread their businesses globally. Here is why and how going global works, and how mapping relates.

Population

We have better population maps than we have ever had before. One of the best is the one recently created by Facebook. It shows on a much more specific scale where people are located. This can help companies determine if there is an adequate customer base in the countries and cities where they want to expand.

Dense settlements (left) can take advantage of short-range wireless hotspots. Sparse settlements (right) require long-range cellular technology. Images: Digitalglobe.

Dense settlements (left) can take advantage of short-range wireless hotspots. Sparse settlements (right) require long-range cellular technology. Images: DigitalGlobe.

As more tech companies expand into nano-satellites and high definition earth imaging, population information will be more dynamic and current.

Demographics

It’s not enough to know the number of  people, but a company needs to know who they are as well. In the last three decades, China and India both have an emerging middle class. It’s essential that for a business to succeed they need to understand the state of global business, and not only know where the population is, but their age, what they spend their money on and where, and what business niches have holes they may be able to fill.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

Map courtesy Wikimedia.

How do we get accurate demographic information in real time? In developing countries, social media users, those using fitness trackers, and smart phone users all share incredible amounts of data about themselves, their shopping habits, their hobbies, and other behaviors.

Gathering this data and mapping it provides business with valuable insight about new and unfamiliar markets.

Infrastructure

How will products be shipped to markets? What transportation routes are the most economical? How many borders will they have to cross, and what are packaging and labeling laws and restrictions in those areas?

High Speed Rail Map. Image Courtesy Wikimedia

High Speed Rail Map. Image Courtesy Wikimedia

All of those items factor into the cost of doing business globally. Infrastructure mapping combined with demographics and population mapping enable companies to locate everything from factories to stores, shipping centers to corporate offices to the best strategic advantage.

There are many layers of data that can be mapped to illustrate the relationship of these and other factors for any business expanding globally. GIS helps show businesses where they are and where they are going on a much larger scale.



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