Visualising Local Government Financial Stability in South Korea

Visualising Local Government Financial Stability in South Korea

Raising citizens’ awareness of local government’s welfare affordability

Overview

What was made: 

We created a visualisation of financial independence of local governments and districts in Seoul.

Background and objectives: 

This Project was started for CodeAcross 2015, a financial transparency hackathon, organised by Code for Seoul.

Here is the background of the story; Financial independence of local governments means “what percentage an area can afford for their entire budget”. For example, if Incheon’s (a city of South Korea) financial independence is 60%, the city can afford 60% of the entire budget, however they need 40% of support from the central government in order for them to operate public services. South Korea has started its local governments system when its democratic government was set up. The year 2015 celebrates 20 years since the local government system began, however there are no indicators for citizens to understand financial independence of local governments. The central government budget focuses on economic growth and safety of the country. On the other hand, the local government budget focuses on the quality of life and welfare of citizens. Therefore, if the financial status of the local governments gets unstable, the level of welfare of citizens gets lower, and the local government system can become volatile.

In South Korea, the central government makes top level decisions on citizen welfare, however local governments have the responsibility to implement these decisions. Some local governments do not have the budget to implement these decisions. In this circumstance, the financial independence of local governments has weakened, and there have been discussions around who is financially responsible for citizen welfare. In order to raise citizens’ awareness of this problem, we aimed to turn data into information that people can access and understand easily.

Outcome: 

It was the first project that I worked on front-end development, so the quality is not perfect. However, I enjoyed working as I learned and received a good amount of recognition from people. Through this project as a beginning, I am now working as a Front-end Developer for Data Visualisation at Team Mondrian, a startup specialising in Data Science & 3D Visualisation.  

How it was made

Learn Front-end dev

I formed a team for a hackathon, and there were six team members originally. We had a month to prepare for the hackathon (Hackathons in Seoul usually allow people to form teams beforehand and work before the actual event) and many of the team members have dropped out. I participated as a planner, and there was no one who can do front-end programming. Front-end development is one of the areas that I was interested, so I started to learn the skill.  There was no designer either, so I found Beetle, a free template for single page web sites. With this, I built the basic structure using its Javascript and CSS code. The template uses various open source components, and I was able to learn a lot from it. Here are the tools I've used for this project;  Font Awesome / Line icon set / jQuery / Layers CSS framework / Modernizr / waitForImages / Skrollr / OWL Carousel / Easy Pie Chart / onScreen / Shuffle (Masonry) / jribbble / Fluidvids.js / ImageLightbox.js / jquery-countTo / Google Maps JavaScript API v3

Feeling during this step: 
3
No
Finding/Cleaning data

The problem was to find and clean data. The original plan was to use Open API, however the majority of data from local governments were published as HTML on their web pages, or pdf or hwp as documents. So I had to do it manually.

Feeling during this step: 
2
No
Using Google Sheets for Database

I used Google Sheets in order to organise data from different sources and then input them into our own database. However, getting the financial independence was easily done on Google Sheets, so we just need to visualise this data on our web page. 

Software: 
Feeling during this step: 
5
Yes
Exporting data into Javascript

We found open source Gsheets library that exports Google Sheets using Javascript. The rows and columns were in good format on Google Sheets, so we didn’t need to make different database or put static raw data on the web page. Therefore, data collectors can save, edit and update data easily without development skills and developers can work with data without back-end server or setting up a database.

Feeling during this step: 
5
No
Creating a chart

After organising data, we decided to create basic charts. Chartjs (http://www.chartjs.org/) was the easiest way to do it, and we were able to show how fast the financial independence goes down.

(Image: Financial independence of local governments expected to plummet by 40s% (source: The Korean Administration Department ‘A summary of finance of local governments)

Feeling during this step: 
5
No
Mapping Financial Independence

The next step was to map financial independence. We found an svg file of a Seoul map, and matched the id of Google Sheets and that of svg so that the colour changes for different years. Javascript was new to me, so I had difficulties working on it. I asked other front-end developers for advice, and I was able to build the basic features. 

In fact, we found data from the whole South Korea however, we ran out of time completing the map, so we did Seoul only. Our original plan was to show visualising financial independence of local governments, however we ended up showing financial independence of different districts of Seoul. Financial independence of local governments is worse than that of the city Seoul, so this outcome might give limited view of the problem.

Feeling during this step: 
3
No
Creating pie charts

In order to show the financial independence of the local governments, we added the 4 best and 4 worst cities regarding financial independence.

Feeling during this step: 
4
No