These guidelines have been jointly written by CartONG & MapAction.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has impacted in one way or another the work of nearly all humanitarian actors. With the global, national and local dimensions of the pandemic, static and interactive maps and dashboards are more valuable than ever before in communications and decision-making and a large number have been created. As Fawad Hussain Syed, chair of the GIMAC (Global Information Management, Assessment & Analysis Cell on COVID-19), remarked during a meeting with its members: “Everybody has a dashboard now … Every organisation sees it as a visibility opportunity to have a dashboard.”
When so many information sources are available, creating data visualisations that are inadequate or don’t meet a clearly defined need just adds to the noise and may even result in misinterpretation or wrong directions being taken. Sometimes good intentions – such as an attempt to include everyone’s suggestions or meet everyone’s needs in one map – may turn bad, resulting in an overcrowded product that is hard to read. Likewise, a small, innocent mistake, such as forgetting to include the data release date on a map, may also result in wrong conclusions being drawn.
In order to help enhance the quality of maps used for humanitarian response, both during the COVID-19 situation and in the long-term, CartONG and MapAction have put together this quick guide giving some simple and concrete tips on how to deliver effective maps and avoid common pitfalls. Many of the points raised in this document also apply in the context of other types of pandemics, natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies.
Here are the questions that you should ask yourself when producing a map in the context of a pandemic:
- Are you sure the product you want to build doesn’t already exist?
- What is the main point – the message – of this map and is it clearly spelled out?
- What data am I using, how valid is it and am I presenting it in the relevant way?
- What should I keep in mind to display evolution over time?
- Am I certain the map has all the necessary extra information on the data sources and dates?
- Have you given enough context to your map?
- Have I considered the privacy, dignity and security of the represented communities?
- Should I prioritise a quick delivery or a lavish appearance?
- What is the lifespan of my map and will it need to be adapted to reflect an evolving situation?
- How and by what channels am I going to reach my audiences?