The Land Matrix

 

The Land Matrix is an online database of large-scale land deals and was launched with the aim of promoting transparency and accountability over land and investment through open data, maps and visualisations. It provides the best facility for observing ongoing trends on the subject whilst encouraging researchers, governments and companies to provide new data on land acquisitions.
 

The Land Matrix was launched in April 2012 at the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty

                                                                                                                      

 

CASE STUDY

Tactical Tech has been independently involved in, and working on land issues, collecting information since 2010, our focus was on human rights, minority and environmental aspects of land acquisitions.
 
At the OpenAid Data conference in 2011 we met members of the Land Portal and started discussing potential collaboration. The Land Matrix project started end April 2011, when the International Land Coalition sent us an excel table which took my computer over 10 minutes to open it was so heavy. They had a very precious document, 15 years worth of data collected of over 2300 of land deals - Who is buying land where? How many hectares? For how much? 
 
The International Land Coalition was ready to make this evidence public and imagined an interface that would promote transparency and accountability by informing citizens on these large-scale land acquisitions worldwide. 
 
Our mission was to come up with a concept that would bring this excel table to life, to find a way of making the content meaningful to those that have the power to do something about the land at stake.

 

Workshop

In order to begin the process we called all the partners involved in collecting the data to meet together. Representatives from the organisations Cirad, CDE, GIGA, GiZ flew to Berlin for an intense day workshop together. 

      

After a good discussion between the partners, looking at examples and inspiration we were able to define the target audience groups as well as a consensus on key messages this interface would have. We decided to focus the audience to three groups : NGOs, activists and grass root organisations ; Policy influencers and Specialised journalists, citizen journalists and researchers working on land issues.
 
The next step was for Tactical Studios to work with the International Land Coalition to decide how to represent the information, what top level stories needed to be told and how to make the database something non experts could navigate.
 

Production Process

It was vital for us to allow visitors to easily find information to help understand the complexity of land acquisition, to visualise trends from a global level down to individual entries, as well as to give access for people to explore this rich database.
 
Visitors, whether they are specialised researchers or journalists, policy influencers, grass root activists or anybody with a curiosity to discover more on land deals should find comfortably their entry point to explore the interface.
 
We decided on three different sections, ranging from birds eye summaries that give insights to the content of the database, to direct access to the data for more in-depth exploration and analysis :

1. Get the Idea – Empowering the audience without being overwhelmed. 

Summaries that give insights to the content of the database and create easy way of linking causes with problems. 

Who are the major actors? Which are the top investing countries? what is the scale of the problem?

2. Get the Picture – Interactive and detailed information to understand the major problems and quick access to major trends.

3. Get the Detail -  dive right into the core of the data with the ability to sort it according to interests

 

It was also important that The Matrix encourages researchers, governments, companies to also provide more data on land acquisitions – that the interface would be designed for the public to crowdsource new information and improve the database's quality and reliability. 
 
 
 
The next few months were spent sorting through the data, working with the agency Sinnwerkstatt to produce the platform, the infographics and the interactive access to the database.
 
Once the Land Matrix's first version was up, began the long stage of testing and de-bugging. Following this valuable stage a few structural changes occurs to the concept of the visualisations and the amount of data shown. 

 

Mood inspirations

Get the Idea :

Using the 'less is more' technique. 

  

Children's Map of the World, by Save the Children Sweden and Linus Östholm & Fredrik Lund

On this familiar atlas-style, this map only shows countries that have protected children's right by making corporal punishment of a child a crime. The visual expression of this idea centers on an unexpected absence rather than a familiar presence. *

 

Get the Picture :

Screen shot from Land Matrix, 2013         

 

inspired from How Big Really, BBC, 2010

    

                                                                                         

* our guide Visualising Information for Advocacy is a good place to go to look for examples and inspirations as well as descriptions and explainations about visualisations.

 

The Impact

Through out the process of production, the visualisations kept shedding new light on things. What we thought at first were bugs during the testing phase, turned out to be shocking scenarios that called for investigation - why is a private tourism company in United Arab Emirates, buying nearly half of south Sudan..?

And through visualisations such as timelines, we were able to notice clear cause and effect of events such as the 2004 Tsunami or even the sub-prime crash.
 

 

The online interactive database on large-scale land deals was launched on 27th April 2012 at 00:01 CET during the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty.

The launch received a huge press coverage and was widely used by journalists around the world and stimulated decision making from the United Nations to national level.