SaferGlobe is a group of researchers bringing transparency to arms trade in Finland. Over the years, their annual pdf report has gathered ever-increasing interest from journalists and state officials. Now for the first time ever, the report is widely available to anyone interested, in the form of a mini-website and interactive data visualisations.
SaferGlobe is an independent peace and security think tank, which studies and develops tools for the promotion of lasting peace and security. Their members range from seasoned experts to young academics, from military personnel to peace researchers. Many of their members have practical experience from conflict or post-conflict zones. Through their network of researchers, SaferGlobe have expertise on a wide range of topics from local security priorities to conflict sensitive business, arms control and development of crisis management. SaferGlobe has published over twenty reports, many of which have been covered by the Finnish television or other national or international news media.
“Arms control is a global challenge that directly impacts the life of most people on the planet, especially those in the most vulnerable, conflict-prone areas. Finland both produces and sells arms, and increasingly sells them outside the EU to areas that may have other problems. SaferGlobe has created the Finnish Arms Control Report (Suomen asevalvontaraportti) for 8 years, and it has already reached a wide audience. In autumn 2016, the report went directly to the Prime Minister ́s question hour and there was even a cartoon of our work in Iltasanomat. However, we have been unable to develop a digital version of the Finnish Arms Control Report or even the statistics that the Report is based on. The main information is in the written report, which is unaccessible by the vast majority of readers. In this project, SaferGlobe we need help creating a digital source of information on arms trade, so that anyone can access it and see where and what kind of arms Finland is selling.“ (source: SaferGlobe)
Our design and development team did extensive work to understand the problem domain, the different stakeholders' needs and what was most important to achieve with this project.
One very clear goal that emerged was to remain neutral. We wanted to present the data in the most understandable and accessible way, without building a narrative. This way we could retain trustworthiness and transparency in what is a very controversial subject. It is up to the user to explore the data and make up their own mind about it.
Another important goal was accessibility: we wanted to ensure the visualisation is accessible and approximately 4% of Finnish population are red-green colorblind. We clocked several hours of work in testing colors and looking for inspiration in previously implemented data visualisations.
Finally, we knew from the very beginning that testing with real data would be key to finding a good design. This meant that we jumped straight into coding the design from the very beginning, using typical design software only on the side, for quick experiments with different layouts and colours.
More on our approach can be found in this Arms Exports blog article
The impact of this service has been significant and measurable. All of Finland’s main ministries were present at the publishing event. The keynote speaker at the event was Finland’s former minister of foreign affairs, Ilkka Kanerva. The report now goes directly to the highest levels of Finnish political decision-making.
The media also took interest. The arms export report was the number 1 news item on Yle’s main news broadcast at 20.30, a first for the report. SaferGlobe’s executive director Maria Mekri commented on the improved accuracy of the reporting, noting that journalists had clearly used the website, and were using the correct terms and figures, so it works as intended.
Our hope for the service is that it will inspire other organizations to share their data in a clear and understandable format. If accurate information is available to everyone, we get closer to a more truthful view of things, regardless of subject matter. In addition to arms exports, open data could be utilized to solve or at least explore problems in areas such as gender, race, income inequality, substance abuse and mental health.
As Maria Mekri from SaferGlobe said: “I’m really looking forward for what we can do in the future, but for now, I am very proud and happy! I feel we have made the world a better place.“