Tool for Interrogating Govenment Data

A (financial) data management tool

Our rainbow can make interrogating financial data a lot easier than with Excel spreadsheets

In 2013 the UK government Cabinet Office launched a website showing all government spending by Department. The intention was good but the site’s hierarchical nature made it impossible to set up queries or spot trends and comparisons were very limited, and in 2017 it was taken down. Our rainbow (of course!) makes it easy to do all these things – much easier even than with Excel pivot tables and bar charts – so shortly before the government site was taken down (luckily) we took a snapshot of the site’s data* and ‘rainbowised’ it to see how financial data could be presented. The results are briefly summarized below and a free download of the app we produced is available if you’d like to play.
* We should say that this data is still being published here; a quarterly spreadsheet of around 20,000 rows.

OK so the government’s site was called GIST – Government Interrogating Spending Tool – so we called our app TIGS – Tool for Interrogating Government Spending. We used the GIST colours in the bars (each department has its own colour) but beyond that it’s rainbow all the way. We massaged the spreadsheet data into data items for different total levels, different departments and different periods. What we get could be described as a bar chart with added query functions – and you don’t have to be an Excel whizz to work it! For reference, this is how the government’s site looked:

As can be seen, a period has to be selected; it is not possible to see trends across periods. It was also not possible to compare sub-departments across different ministries. No filtering of any kind was possible. Basically you could pick a ‘bar’ and open up sub-levels within it, one-at-a-time, and that was it.

Contrast that with our rainbow treatment:

Because we can compare across periods and across departments, it’s easy to spot anomalies. Like the one here; normally Work and Pensions is normally the highest spending department but we can see an enormous expense against Energy and Climate Change for quarter 4 of year 2015-2016. The rainbow makes it very easy first to pick up the anomaly and then to drill down into that expense to see what it’s made up of: