The Cabinet Office has launched its new site, the Government Interrogating Spending Tool (GIST), which has been designed to provide an ‘accessible breakdown of government expenditure for use by the public.’ It has been met with mixed reviews, and according to visualisation expert Stephen Few it is an ‘embarrassing mess’.
“GIST, for the first time, lays open the government’s books and crucially provides a user-friendly tool with which to analyse the data,” said Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith. “This puts meaningful information and analysis at the fingertips of all.”
Few, on the other hand, believes the site is ‘a joke’ and said to Information Age: It is “either an attempt to obscure the data under the guise of transparency or the work of people who have no knowledge of data visualisation. The charts in every case are either inappropriate for the data or appropriate but ineptly designed…Data sensemaking consists primarily of making comparisons, but few comparisons are enabled by this system. Items that you would want to compare must be viewed separately, such as spending and budget. This is an embarrassing mess.”
The GIST system is still in beta, and according to Few is similar to a federal IT spending data portal launched by the US government in 2009. He argues that there are a great many opportunities afforded by the use of information technology and data analysis which mustn’t be squandered.