Exploring the Use of Google Fusion Tables

Lots of media houses today take advantage of the power of Google in Fusing Tables to create interactive maps of data. It helps web viewers gain insight into information available on the map by fusing a geographical border file and data organized by those same geographical units.

Google Fusion Tables is one of the available tools that make it easy to manage large collections of data in the cloud. It enables users upload files of up to 100MB, manage, collaborate on, visualize, and share them by enabling the public user option. 1,000 columns per table and 1MB of content per row can be uploaded at a given time. Fusion Tables supports standard data file formats such as .csv, .xls, .xslx, .ods and Google Spreadsheets and text-delimited files .tsv.

Fusion Tables help in visualizing data in form of maps, charts and timelines but depends on a reliable internet connection. In addition to shaded cloropleth maps it makes it easy to customize points on the map by uploading different image types. There are a number of icons to choose from in marking the map.

Google Fusion Tables makes it possible to share map links from Tools> Publish option. It also enables combining of more than two different set of maps with similar geocodes.
Web developers have made it easy to develop maps by geocoding common administrative/geographic blocks and saving them in (.kml) formats. For example, Kenya County map recently developed by Internews in Kenya, is available on the web by searching “Kenya_County filetype:kml”.

In the example above, Google Fusion Tables have made it easy to fuse two sets of data; the rate of Contraceptive Prevalence in 2011 and Kenya County map. The mapping enables the reader see prevalence rates across in the country shown by different range of colours.
Within the map, each large band of color shows a particular prevalence rate filled in the polygons or counties. The use of five color bands makes it easy to differentiate Contraceptive Prevalence rates in 2011.

When developing Fusion Tables, it is important to set different tabs from which the user can choose. The tabs guide in visualizing different variables by filtering and giving summary of data available. For example, Fusion Tables have been used to map homelessness across England. By clicking on the map, dropdown menu appears showing the latest data about the number of households that are homeless.

A number of tools are available online, making it easy to render maps.

  • Geocommons enables the user build simple maps. The site allows storing, organizing and sharing of GeoData, in minutes.
  • Shape Escape is used to convert zipped shapefile into a Fusion Table format
  • Tableau Public is a free tool for creating interactive charts and graphs.
  • Colorbrewer gives options of colour schemes to choose from when designing choropleth maps. The sequence makes it easy for the reader to distinguish among different variables.

Michael Mosota
About the Author: Michael Mosota
Michael Nyamwaya Mosota is a multimedia graphic designer with the Nation Media group and a 2013 Internews data and health journalism fellow. During the four-month fellowship he hopes to learn to mine data and do infographics across media platforms. He made the big leap into the media because his then mentor Mr Kamau Wanyoike, who has been in the industry for close to 40 years, gave him the chance to learn new things and he hopes to one day mentor upcoming graphic designers and journalists.
Author Website: http://nation.co.ke

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