Lowy Institute's Asia Power Index
ABOUT THE LOWY INSTITUTE ASIA POWER INDEX
The Lowy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan international policy think tank located in Sydney, Australia. It is Australia's leading think tank, providing high-quality research and distinctive perspectives on the international trends shaping Australia and the world.
The Asia Power Index is an analytical tool for sharpening debate on power in the Asia-Pacific. The Index ranks 25 countries and territories in terms of their power, reaching as far west as Pakistan, as far north as Russia, and as far into the Pacific as Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. The audience for this visualization can vary since it is open to the public. From looking at a few of the different modules offered by the visualization, I believe that it can be helpful for someone or some organization who's looking to invest or even place stakes in the Asia-Pacific region or one of the listed countries.
Data & Methodology
A visualization can appear great solely on it's aesthetics but another sometimes overlooked component of a great visualization is using great data. One of the ways that makes the Power Index Visualization unique is the method that was used to rank each of the listed countries. The Lowy Institute created their own custom ranking scale called "the eight measures that make up power". The eight equally considered measures included (economic resources, diplomatic influence, military capability, economic relationships, defense networks, resilience, and cultural influence). The data used in the eight measures is very recent (collected in 2018) and is provided using 2850 data points all across the Asia-Pacific region. Provided within the visualization documentation is an excel spread sheet that goes in depth with the eight measures for each of the 25 mentioned countries, as well as a PDF pamphlet on why this type of ranking system was chosen and the methodology behind it.
The eight measures which the power index is based on.
The measures on left are considered resource measures, while the measures on the right are considered influence measures. Notice: the measures are further broken down into sub categories. A country with a high power index will typically have a good distribution of both resource measures and strength measures.
Break Down of the Asia Power Index's Modules
The map is the first tab that is presented once opening the visualization. One of the most interesting things for me was opening this visualization for the first time and expecting to see only a map of Asia, but to my surprise I saw the US! You see that this map is not just exclusive to Asian countries it is for countries that hold power in Asia. It seems now obvious after seeing it but I wasn't expecting outside powers to have such influence in the Asia power index. On the left hand side we see a list that organizes the top countries by overall power. This is done by calculating the the averages of eight measures of power presented above. On the map the countries are organized by overall power by the size of octagon on top of the country. Furthermore, you can utilize the horizontal bar on the top to filter by each of the measures and even the sub categorizes for the eight measures. The list on the left and map are adjusted when a user chooses a filter. One of the disappointing things that I also noticed when viewing the map was that not all countries in Asia are actually included within this visualization. It seems that the countries in western Asia were excluded from this visualization. This is unfortunate because one can imagine that some of those countries would place particularly high in a few of the measures.
This tab of the visualization provides an option to fine tune the eight measures and then outputs a weighted bar graph to the exact specifications. While this option excludes the showing of geography, it gains more functionality with the weightings calculator. A great use case for this module would be a business that's looking to relocate or even open up a new location. They would be able change the slider controls to their liking to filter out their prospect countries. Unfortunately the slider controls do not allow to further filter by sub categories for the eight measures.
The explore data module is similar to the previous two modules as it lists the top countries by power index in the left hand side. It is different on the other hand since it shows an in depth analysis of the distribution between each of the measurements. One of the things that stood out to me in this module were how far ahead the United States and China were in each of the eight power measurements. The United States was ranked as first or second for all of the measurements and China was also similar. The next most powerful country was Japan, which was no where as close to the power ranking of the top two countries. What's great about this module is that it sort of fixes my complaint of the last module since you can filter by sub categories of each of the eight measurements, but it is still not perfect since you cannot mix and match by categories like you were able to with the slider in the last module.
Next on the list there is the Countries module, which I think is one of the more unique modules in the Asia Power Index Visualization. This module allows you to choose two different countries and compare their rankings side by side. While comparing the ranks in each of the eight measures is nice, what I really appreciated about this module was it's exclusive the About section it has on each of the countries. For example when I chose to compare Japan, some of the noteworthy indicators it gave was how Japan was one of the most searched countries on Google in the region. This fact really shows how in depth the ranking system is for this visualization. It almost makes me forgive them for excluding a lot of other countries in Asia.
The final module is the Power Gap module which provides dot graph with each of the mentioned countries in the visualization. The x-axis measures the resource score, while the y-axis measures the influence score. Looking at the graph we see that the United States and China are taking advantage of both their high influence and high resources. Although, what is really amazing about this visualization is where Japan is located. Japan is number 3 in the overall power index but on the Power Gap chart we see that resource wise it has a disadvantage compared to the other countries. The way it has such a high power index is that it takes advantage of its influence. To me this says a lot about the Japan, it says that Japan is capable of doing more than most other countries in Asia with less. As a business or organization, I'd have my eyes set on Japan because of this.
Down below we see the power gap table, displaying Japan as the top over achieving nation based on it's power index when influence and resources are compared. Based on its low resources and the average of all the other countries, Japan is estimated to have a lower power index but because of it's high functioning "influence score" (society) it boosts the overall score and therefore it's power index.
I am glad to have chosen a comprehensive visualization for my Viewers Choice presentation. While going through the visualization's modules I made note of some features that might have not been considered but was often surprised to see the features included in some of the other modules. This remind's me of how we were often asked to create different visualizations for the same pieces of data in some of our projects through out the course. This fact demonstrates to show that some visualizations can tell a viewer more or less than other visualizations depending on how that data is presented.