Data Visualization

Blog of the Data Visualization & Communication Course at OSB-AUB

This is my favorite part about analytics: Taking boring flat data and bringing it to life through visualization” John Tukey



Trading is one of the most important industries in the UAE, as this is one of the richest countries. The UAE also imports many products, among which foodstuff, machinery, and equipment occupy the first positions among the most imported products in the Emirates. The availability of food is not an issue for residents of the UAE; supermarkets carry all the food they could possibly need or want. But how can a nation with the parched territory and hot weather all year round have access to a wide variety of food? Simple: The UAE is greatly reliant on imports.


-Did you know?

UAE faces a trade deficit when it comes to its food market due to limited arable land, increasing climate issues, and acute water shortage.


-What are the challenges?

With the recent COVID-19 outbreak revealing the precarious nature of imports, the UAE is now putting a strategy in place by investing in technologies to find a solution to food security.


-How can this situation improve?

They need to reduce the imports through a new food strategy which is investing in ag-tech!!

This situation can be improved through “Magic – Breathable Sand” which is one of the solutions that was developed by the Dake Group in partnership with the Rechsand Technology Group from Beijing. This type of sand is covered with a specific technology that allows air to travel through its particles and captures the water that it contains. They believe that it could be applied to desert sand to retain water and fertilizer usage by 70% and 50% respectively.

It was then tested and it worked: they were able to grow around 28 fruit trees including mango and lemon groves.

Various institutions in the United Arab Emirates provide a range of funding options to modernize agriculture.

  • Dubai’s Food Tech Valley: It’s a new initiative that seeks to increase food production in the UAE and establish it as a major international destination for the sector. Based out of Dubai, ICBA works by assisting farmers and agricultural organizations in developing policies and methods that will maximize the management of local natural resources. They provide advice on the optimum crop varieties to harvest as well as soil and water quality.
  • Water Scarcity: To make seawater drinkable and useful for agriculture, the United Arab Emirates mainly relies on an expensive procedure called desalination.

Water is scarce. And as we already know, 90% of the water available in the UAE is desalinated water which is very costly and consumes energy,” explains Idland.

If half of the water was saved and used for agriculture, 30 tons of tomatoes could be produced every day. Additionally, there would be less need for the expensive and energy-intensive process of desalinating seawater.

  • Vertical Farming and New Technologies: The past few years have seen a lot of attention paid to Vertical Farming. The government and the corporate sector have invested millions in the technique despite the significant expense associated with it. In order to develop vertical farming facilities in the Emirate, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) announced in April that it would invest $100 million in four businesses, one of which being AeroFarms.


-Visualization and Analysis.

By looking at the data from World Development Indicators, we get the results in Tableau as below: “Imports Vs. Exports”

The data line chart in the World Development Indicators shows the percentages of food exports and imports in the United Arab Emirates from 1999 to 2021 that led to a “Trade Deficit”.


-Things to note.

Why is it magical for Desert Farming and Food Security?

  • Breathable roots are produced by breathing sand, and they can change the forest or other green cover.
  • Given that desert soil is free of any chemical or fertilizer contamination, it encourages quicker adoption of organic farming techniques.
  • A small layer of sand can save billions of gallons of water annually by reducing water use for agriculture, farming, forestry, or gardens by 80%.
  • Additionally, the breathable sand can transform desert farming to increase production quantity and quality.




Increasing self-production within the local region and reducing the reliance on imports is what we are focusing on,” says Chandra Dake.


We [in the UAE] are only looking at a few hundred thousand hectares to be food secure, and it is not too far,” he says.





The Nexus of Unemployment and Economic Growth

The Nexus of Unemployment and Economic Growth

Wassim, Nathalie, and Imad; three individuals who were pushed out of work by the deteriorating economic conditions in Lebanon. Tens of thousands of people like them have been suffering daily for the past 3 years living from paycheck to paycheck up until they were forced out of it (work). Lebanon has witnessed what no other country has. Unemployment rates doubled in only a decade, COVID-19 took out thousands, and inflation bankrupted hundreds of businesses.

According to Okun, a very low or negative growth in GDP leads to a rise in unemployment. By observing this visual, we can see how unemployment skyrocketed while GDP growth took a deep dive. Comparing the years 2008 and 2009, GDP growth increased 10.23 percentage points while unemployment rates decreased by 6.35 percentage points. We can conclude an inverse correlation between GDP growth and unemployment. Another observation is that between years 2020 and 2021, GDP growth increased by almost 15 percentage points. Despite this growth, unemployment remains significantly high at 14.49 percentage points. Importantly, this project is action-oriented in that it shows the nexus between unemployment and GDP growth #SDG8, which are intrinsic to an economy, from more “policy-driven” factors that can be addressed, improved or mitigated.

Here, a question rises? What is the cause for the disproportionality between GDP growth and unemployment rates? There are 3 possible causes for its inverse relation:

• The decrease of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which reached 3.98 percentage points in 2019 due to the lack of security and political tension
• Another possible cause is the low diversification in economic sectors due to scarcity of resources. Looking at this visual, we can see the focus of employment shift mainly to the service industry which witnessed an increase by 65.10 percentage points while the agricultural and industrial sectors are left behind increasing by under 30 percentage points in 2019.
• The third and final possible cause is the over-dependence on food and fuel imports. Lebanon possesses the second highest food and energy imports in 2019.

What should be done?

Drawing upon decades of empirical literature on drivers and predictors of lack of growth, this project proves Okun’s law using visualizations for the case of Lebanon. According to International Labor Organization (ILO), not just growth, but quality of growth is the key anchor in the SDGs 2030 agenda. Sustainable economic growth will require societies to create the conditions that allow people to have quality jobs that stimulate the economy while not harming the environment.
1. Creating greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment and income. Closing the employment gap is at the heart of the decent work agenda, this can be through promoting voluntary private initiatives and corporate social responsibility.
2. Instating policies to enhance knowledge, skills and employability for men and women since gender remains a source of labor market inequalities and inadequately utilized human resources. Women continue to be employed in a narrower range of occupations than men and to be concentrated in lower-paid, insecure, and unprotected jobs.
3. Promoting employment through reconstruction and employment-intensive investment.
4. Increasing access to financial services to manage incomes, accumulate assets and make productive investments.

Findings and Recommendations

A shift in economic thinking and planning towards economic structural transformation is necessary for the Arab region to develop on SDG 8 (ESCWA, 2021). The post-pandemic SDG agenda must leverage the lessons learnt to reinforce national social safety nets and employment policies. This strengthens economic resilience and allows developing countries to absorb shocks. A continued lack of decent job opportunities, insufficient investments, and under-consumption slows down economic growth. The average growth rate GDP is increasing after the pandemic; however, it still did not reach pre-pandemic levels of growth and developing countries such as Lebanon are moving farther from the 7% growth rate set for 2030. Therefore, as labor productivity decreases driven by low productivity and unemployment rate rises, standards of living decreases and overall economic growth decreases.

Governments must join forces and formulate policies to promote better job opportunities through active labor market programs, corresponding to important SDGs: Economic Growth and Decent Work, as well as Partnerships to Achieve the Goals.

Sustainable economic growth will require societies to create the conditions that allow people to have quality jobs that stimulate the economy while not harming the environment. Job opportunities and decent working conditions are also required for the whole working age population. There needs to be increased access to financial services to manage incomes, accumulate assets and make productive investments. Increased commitments to trade, banking and agriculture infrastructure will also help increase productivity and reduce unemployment levels in the world’s most vulnerable regions.#SDG8 #SDG16

Where would you imagine yourself if you were not educated?

Where would you imagine yourself if you were not educated?

Children Education is a right!

Did you know?
Even though the average percentage of Children out of school is declining over the years, studies showed that almost 20% of children in low-income countries and 10% in lower middle-income countries are still out of primary school in 2021.

What are these children doing?
The highest % of children in employment is found in the low-income countries, followed by the lower middle-income countries where the highest % of children out of school coexists.
This shows that these countries cannot afford the education of their children and thus shift them to work instead in order to support their families’ living expenses.

Who should we blame?
While these countries have the lowest income, they score the highest birth rates compared to other countries as shown below.
The low-income countries have a 44% birth rate reflected by their ignorance on the importance of birth control and contraceptive prevalence with only 23%.

Is 23% enough? No.
Children have the right to be educated, and a big responsibility falls on the parents who give birth to children and force them to work, knowing that they cannot afford their education.

The access to electricity and internet usage across the years has been increasing in all the countries including the low-income ones.
However, it is important to highlight that with all this increase, only 40% of the population in low-income countries have access to electricity and only 21% of them use the internet in 2020.
This evolution has pushed the adult literacy rate across the years to increase.
The more the adults have literacy and can surf through internet facilities, the more they understand the importance of children education and therefore decreasing the % of children out of school.

The main reason behind the decrease in % of children out of school through years is the increase in education expenditures in primary public institutions, along with the increase in access to electricity and internet usage which facilitates the education feasibility for the children and the adults literacy in these countries.

Knowing that the low-income countries cannot afford the education of their children, while their birth rate is increasing, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in the United Nations should ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all #SDG4 #SDG4.1 by supporting these countries through funding the tuition fees of their children along with educating the parents on the importance of contraceptive prevalence and maybe set regulations in collaboration with the governments to limit the birth rate allowed in the low income countries.

Addressing Multidimensional Poverty in Lebanon

Addressing Multidimensional Poverty in Lebanon

Authors: Tala Abdul Samad, Nour Al Bidewe, Basman Hariri, Sara Sadaka, Aziz Saliby, Jean-Pierre Sakr

Over the past two years, Lebanon has been witnessing compounded crises such as brain drain, poverty, unemployment, and inequality. On October 3rd, we wanted to listen to the factors that affected the Lebanese the most. Borhan, a 60-year-old man living in Beirut, was one of the people we met. We captured a video with him to show the suffering of the Lebanese since the start of the crisis where he comprehensively described the severe living conditions. As we all know, 2019 was a year of transformation for Lebanon, beginning with the October 17th revolution in 2019, following the global pandemic in 2020, and the rise of inflation. Borhan expressed the feelings of most Lebanese, where he identified the problems that we are facing as residents. Many people mentioned that specific sectors have been hit the most, therefore we would like to perform exploratory data analysis and surveys using different datasets to be able to identify inequalities. We are also interested in using a data-driven approach to identify gaps and inequalities that exist in the education, income, and health sectors. 


As a result, we have exploited the World Bank’s World Development Indicators and we have identified several indicators which we have used as proxies to measure multidimensional poverty in Lebanon. We chose to have a topic related to the multidimensional poverty index in Lebanon compared to the Arab region. Since the multidimensional poverty index is calculated using three different dimensions, namely education, living conditions, and health, we decided to divide the three different dimensions among us. 

Living Conditions:

Housing is a significant indicator of the multidimensional poverty (MDP), and based on ESCWA calculations, the main indicators to assume whether housing is counted as depreciation for a household or not are ‘Overcrowding rate’ – the percentage of the population living in an overcrowded household – ‘Housing type’ i.e. houses, apartments, row houses, townhouses and duplexes, ‘Sanitation quality’ – availability of handwashing facilities, toilet cleanliness.

Historical data related to housing utilities in Lebanon was gathered from the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS), which contains significant indicators to measure MDP such as water, electricity, gas, actual rent, furnishings, household equipment and routine household, and others. Data is shown monthly from December 2007 till September 2022.

This data reported many indicators highlighting the increase in poverty on multiple sides. It is worth reporting that the consumer price index (CPI) Housing Utilities in Lebanon records the highest score this September 2022 (363.3) compared to October 2021 (215.9)

Looking at the nutrition level, food inflation was detected as the cost is more skewed to the right for the year 2021-2022; rising food prices reduce the purchasing power of food consumers. Another devaluation could be mentioned in the transportation sector, as the transportation sub-index of the CPI basket in Lebanon increased by 2339 points in September of 2022 (3,725), compared to August 2021 (1,386); the cost of transportation is significantly increasing, resulting in a limitation to access in the transportation sector.

It is worth mentioning that the CPI in Lebanon has more than doubled over the past year, peaking this September 2022 at a score of 1,611.4 against 714.8 in October 2021, and a higher CPI indicates higher inflation. This eventually leads to adjustments in the cost of living and income, which tends to worsen inequality or poverty as it hits income and savings harder for poorer or middle-income households than for wealthy households.

Healthcare System:

As stated by Joao Martins, MSF Head of Mission in Lebanon, “The crisis in Lebanon has been driven by years of corruption and now we are seeing that this can contribute to the destruction of an entire health system just as effectively as war or a natural disaster”. As a result, it is important to conduct a deep dive analysis on the healthcare system in Lebanon which is a dimension that measures multidimensional poverty.

First we will look at the current health expenditure (%of GDP) which takes into account the public and private health expenditure. By comparing Lebanon to the Arab World, we can notice that the current health expenditure is higher along the mid 2000 with Lebanon having 11% in 2000 while the Arab World having 4%. After that, Lebanon witnessed a decrease and the Arab World an increase reaching a value of 9% and 5%, respectively. The decrease in the expenditure in Lebanon has negatively affected the healthcare system as medication and vaccines are becoming scarce. Looking more closely, we can see in the next graph that the access to immunization has tremendously decreased in Lebanon. On average the access to vaccines (such as DPT, HepB3, and measles) has decreased from 83% (2000) to 67% (2021). 

On another hand, we evaluated the demand for private insurance in Lebanon. As we can see, the demand has decreased from 70% (2000) to 45% (2021). This decrease is due to all private insurance companies converting their payment method to fresh U.S. dollars and since the NSSF benefits have diminished due to the economic crisis, most Lebanese people are now left with no proper access to health assistance.  


We also conducted a survey on school and university students to analyze access to online education during the COVID-19 pandemic which was also identified as the new normal.

You can be part of our project by filling this online survey. Your answers are highly valuable to the development of our dashboard since the larger the sample size, the more accurate our results would be. 

At a later stage, we would like to present our results to our target audience which are UN agencies, local NGOs, and Lebanese ministries. We got a total of 135 responses from all over Lebanon where the survey was populated via social media platforms. The majority of the respondents were university students or graduates. Most of them were unemployed or employed in a full time position. 

We asked the respondents about their evaluation to their online experience; the answers rated their  experience as poor or fair. On a scale from 1 being a very bad experience and 5 being a very good experience, most of the respondents rated the effectiveness of online learning as 3. In addition, we asked about the preferred type of education; the majority answered the traditional physical method as the most preferred following the hybrid method as second preferred. These answers make us conclude that the online learning experience was not that good in Lebanon. This might be due to the lack of training from the government and the teachers. 

To further explore the facilities that were available to ease the online learning experience, we asked the people about their access to devices, electricity and internet. For the devices, the majority had access to devices that were mainly Mobile phones or laptops. Most of the respondents have access to electricity but not all the time while almost all the respondents have access to internet but the variance changed between access all the time and access but not all the time.  Most of the respondents reflected that they couldn’t focus and they weren’t serious about their studies during online learning. Furthermore, on a scale from 1 being not at all to 5 being for sure, we asked the people about their willingness to retake the online experience. The answers varied between 1 and 2 mainly. 

Finally, we asked the people about the disadvantages of online learning. Some of the responses include poor network, electricity cuttage, procrastination, weak communication, lack of motivation to study, more distraction, professors are not equipped with the resources, challenging experience for both students and professors. From this survey, we can conclude that Lebanon wasn’t prepared well for such a situation, especially its basic infrastructure which includes bad electricity and network services.

Where are all the Children?

Where are all the Children?

“When children must split their time between fetching water and protecting their families’ greatest wealth, the livestock, their education suffers”
Marco Prates

Marta Ndimaoshitya

Meet Marta Ndimaoshitya:

Marta is a 12-year-old educated girl. “Educated?”, You might say. “Then what’s the problem?”, you might wonder. Well, the problem isn’t with Marta, it’s with Marta’s 3 siblings who have dropped out of school because there is no water for them to undertake the long walk to reach the school. The only reason Marta is able to go to school is that it is close to her home. You might have thought of many reasons why they are unable to receive proper education, but I doubt this one would have crossed your mind. Unfortunately, many children around the world live a life similar to Marta’s siblings and even worse.

The below visualization will offer a clear sight of the countries that are suffering from children being out of school the most. I wish to shed light on these countries as the aim is not just to know the number of school dropouts, it is also to help solve the major factors that render this behind each specific country.

Countries like Libya, Nigeria, Chad, Ghana, and many more experience very high numbers of children out of school. Some of the factors that render this are poverty, gender inequality, child marriage, lack of access to clean water, and armed conflict.


  • Raise awareness on the importance of education
  • Provide financial support for poor families
  • Provide flexible, affordable, high-quality school options
  • Improve the access to education