One of the areas we wanted to explore was how the expenditure of government aligns to the values of the community. This was not easy to figure out, but we discovered in the StatsNZ General Social Survey some proxy value questions which looked at how individuals rated the importance of various topics in defining New Zealand. We then mapped these to expenditure (manually) from the Treasury expenditure dataset. We categorised 80% of the budget to test the idea, focusing on the largest government departments as well as three environmental departments (as it was a very high priority value across the board).
We wanted a way for users to engage with the information rather than just a data visualisation. As such, we asked users to choose their age group and select values of importance to them, then dynamically presented how much of the budget was associated with what they care about and some useful comparisons for their age group.
Ideally, with a bit more time (and skills), we would make the app more interactive, more beautiful, and would merge data from more sources to make the experience more meaningful and personalised, as well as save profiles to compare against so people could compare their values with their loved ones or competitors :)
Show me the Money!
If you look at the NZ Revenue page on the website as well, you will see our effort to understand where does your money go? We know that some of it goes to government in the form of taxes. What happens to it then?
Recently the yacht team that won the America's Cup received a check for five million dollars. In the same week, funding to the Auckland Women's Refuge was cut. Health, Safety and Housing are services which we might expect the government to provide. Yachts races are not a common priority.
Our project wanted to ask and answer questions about the money cycle. Basic questions like, where does the money come from and where does it go. The purpose of redistributive government spending is to direct spending. What do they spend the money on? Who gets it?
We used data sources for revenue and expenditure from government and matched it with census data about core values to see what correlation there was between spending in areas that are valued by citizens.
We took a breakout of government revenue from individuals and corporates over the last quarter century to see who contributes and in what ratios.
We generated a dynamic graphs which arrange spending by year, government department, appropriation budget and category.
We attempted to make links between department, appropriation budgets and revenues but found that the data sources where only compatible across a small slice of data and that it was difficult to make comparisons. Of course, this in itself is instructive.