We took a data-driven approach to this challenge. We began by asking ourselves two questions. What are the factors determining the price of goods? Second, how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed those systems, and how has it stressed the economy’s weak points?
Like any informal economy, Zimbabwe’s is complicated — the price and availability of basic produce is determined by many intertwined social, economic and environmental factors. The amount of data collected can be overwhelming, and hard to interpret.
The Presence Anytime Anywhere (PAA) project is exploring solutions to this problem, using a new technology called spatial computing that supports 3D data visualization.
That’s exactly what spatial computing helps us do. It uses computerized goggles to create a three-dimensional version of the digital world. Their display can take any digital information and display it in the room with you as a three-dimensional, interactive object made of light.
UNDP is working with Flow Immersive (flow.gl) to create three-dimensional, immersive presentations. Unlike in a simple presentation, data can be charted along three different axes and viewed from all sides in a shared online space.
These pilot projects are part of PAA’s broader exploration of spatial computing’s potential as a tool for UNDP’s digital strategy, “the first of its kind in the UN system. We’re learning how data-driven storytelling can combine with the ability of people in different locations to work together as if they were in the same room.
As UNDP shifts to an integrated, data-driven approach (SparkBlue), new challenges will arise. Spatial computing can be a powerful tool as we take this next step, to help us see the data clearly, to see the patterns and correlations within it and to convey those lessons to the people who need them to make decisions.
What we have learned:
Cool is a scientific term — It’s fun to watch, and that’s part of helping people to understand what’s clearly a very complex undertaking.
Visualizing data on a greater scale — UNDP is using huge amounts of data, which makes it hard to visualize the impact and the real depth and complexity of what is happening. With many sensory modalities — visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and olfactory, 3D visualizations are creating perceptually enriched experiences and can help reveal hidden patterns and relationships that can be hard to recognize in complex data systems.
Empathic experience — 3D visualizations grab people’s attention in a similar way to a movie, TV show or a YouTube video does. They are more engaging than reports which are often ignored or fail to grab one’s attention.
The future of storytelling — 3D visualizations allow you to communicate much more data in a more compelling and interaction manner. They combat ‘Zoom fatigue.’
Recognizing new patterns — Immersing participants in the new 3D data reality can help to identify new patterns and perspectives. With new tools and techniques there is the potential to see connections that could not have been seen before, and chart an entirely new, more sustainable future.