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Digging into data: Atlas of Economic Complexity

Published 01 August 2023

Data visuals have become an increasingly important way to communicate trade trends and journalism. Harvard University's Growth Lab publishes an Atlas of Economic Complexity, a research and data visualization tool used to understand economic metrics and identify growth opportunities for economies worldwide. The Lab’s director of software tools Annie White and the senior manager of applied research, Tim Cheston, briefed NPF International Trade Reporting fellows on how to use the tool.

Watch the webinar:

When it comes to visualizing stories on global trade, there are limited tools and resources at our disposal. White and Cheston explained that the Atlas of Economic Complexity allows users to produce data visualizations showing any country’s trends in imports and exports for 6,000 products and services. Particularly useful for journalists covering trade issues, the tool adjusts the data to maximize reporting, making it possible to chart thousands of products and services, searchable by name or specific trade codes. The atlas also shows the growth of industries in individual countries over multiple years.

It profiles each country, yielding a unique narrative that includes growth projections based on a country’s exports and can demonstrate a county’s market share in each product. The researchers also cautioned the journalists against viewing the tools as prophetic- “By no means is this a tool to build a policy for you…but we can tell something about what kind of policy approach a country might take vis-a-vis other countries,” said White.

About the NPF International Trade Fellowship 2023

The National Press Foundation holds an annual International Trade Fellowship workshop for journalists sponsored by the Hinrich Foundation. This year, we welcomed 24 Asia-based journalists to the fellowship at the Hinrich Foundation offices in Singapore. The sessions, held in July, focused on US-China geopolitics, AI’s impact on trade, global shifts in supply chains, data visuals, and more.

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