MIX Maps hompage

MIX Maps is a central place to see all the mapping the Microfinance Information Exchange team is doing, showing the location and activities of financial institutions in the context of other social layers like poverty, internet access, unemployment, literacy rates, and dozens of other indicators. Each country profiled has its own full screen data browser, which allows for trying out different layers of financial and contextual data for analysis. The data is all open too, so each profile has notes on the data's sourcing and processing, as well as download links.

Over the last year, MIX - a resource for information about the financial sector in the developing world - has built full screen map browsers showcasing its exclusive subnational data in places like Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and coming soon Afghanistan.

How we built it

For this project, we used the MapBox map site templates with a new Jekyll-based template. We built a few layouts for the country profiles that matched what we used to build individually for MIX projects. Then we built a new homepage that aggregates all the profiles dynamically. It pulls in key information like title, location, and the default map layers from each profile, adds markers to a global map on the homepage, and builds thumbnails of each map with its default layers using the MapBox Static API.

Using a Jekyll site makes it easy for the MIX team to set up their own country profiles too. What used to involve custom web development by our team is now handed off completely to the MIX data team. By filling out some metadata fields, selecting a layout, and entering content about each profile, they can take the maps maps they're making in TileMill and add them to the MIX Maps portal with no additional development. If MIX decides they want a new custom layout for a specific profile, setting it up is as easy as copying an existing HTML template and modifying it.

Using Prose.io as the editor for MIX Maps means anyone with access can modify content and set up new country profiles through a clean web-based interface. Authentication and file management is handled through GitHub's API, so version control and GitHub Pages hosting is all built in.

Prose screenshot

We've put together a simple workflow for MIX to take over producing their own map sites using open source and freely available tools like the MapBox Map Site templates and Prose.io, backed up by GitHub, the new standard for managing code and the development process. MIX now has complete control of their mapping projects without needing development assistance from us, freeing them to focus their time and resources on data analysis.

We find this CMS-free approach to building dynamic sites very exciting and scalable. We look forward to pursuing it on more projects where simplicity and flexibility are key features, and we thank MIX for their support of open source development.

Case study: MIX Nigeria

Growing Microfinace in Nigeria Nigeria's microbanking sector is experience unprecedented growth as it aims to expand coverage for low income clients. Photo courtesy of the World Bank

Starting in 2006, the Central Bank of Nigeria began transitioning several hundred community banks into official licensed microfinance banks. Now Africa's most populous country has over 900 microfinance banks as the sector continues to experiences rapid growth. This is just the start. A lot more growth is needed to help the 60 percent of Nigerians who still lack basic access to financial services. We partnered with Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) to design visualization tools to look at the data on microfinance banks in Nigeria and help MIX better understand Nigeria's access to finance for low income clients. The interactive maps are all public on Nigeria.MixMarket.org

Subnational Mapping

The interactive maps tell the story of the microfinance landscape in Nigeria and raise questions by making it easy to compare other data sets to the Central Bank of Nigeria's listing of licensed microfinance banks. Users can navigate the maps and visualize the data in a number of ways.

Interactive maps let us dive down into the data

The maps lets you quickly see a national view of banking operations. Here you can see the total number of microfinance banks licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria as density points geocoded at the state level. As you zoom in, the detail of the bank data increases to local government areas where that data is available. The bank data can be toggled between “licensed” and “provisional” status, which changes the density points.

Sharing Open Data

All maps on the site were built using TileMill, our open source map design studio. The maps are publicly available at tiles.mapbox.com/mix on our map hosting service TileStream.

Interactive maps let us dive down into the data

The site lets you share any map just like you would a YouTube video. All it takes to embed a map is to copy one line of code using the scissors icon and embed the current view of the map anywhere on the web. A large goal of the site is to let people share and tell their own stories around the data, and this embed features makes it easy to do so.

Serving People in Need

This is just the first part of MIX's wider research into microfinance in Nigeria. By having the data in an interactive visual format, we can now ask important questions like whether people in need have access to microfinance banks. For a more detailed analysis on microbanking in Nigeria, Scott Gaul has a good post and analysis on the larger microfinance landscape in Nigeria.

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