Atlas of Economic Complexity

I just saw this lovely network map of the “product space” of exports (Atlas of Economic Complexity, via Infosthetics). The idea is to reveal what types of products are related to each other in the sense that there are common economic competencies need to produce them.

If I’m understanding correctly how they built the image (p. 52 of the pdf version of the Atlas), they’ve used fine grained economic export data to create a co-export probability network. The idea being that if two products are exported together by lots of countries, there must be something similar about those products. They then reduced the fully-connected similarity network by extracted a Minimum Spanning Tree, and then added back in a certain number of high-weight edges to show some connectivity. The clusters (color groups) were generated using Rosvall and Bergstrom’s community finding technique.

One thing interesting I see in this map is that, according to their measures and visualisation, the entire computer and electronics export industry is almost unrelated to the other economic competencies of a country. They do have an interactive version where you can click on each node to see the product type. Using that, it seems that a countries ability to export electronics is most closely related to its ability to export Epoxide Resins, and Mirrors. Is this true? Maybe it means that one requires a complex chemical manufacturing processes, and the other very tight machining capability? Or perhaps it is because electronics are now mostly exported from factories that are dropped into to cheap-labor countries, often built from imported parts fabricated elsewhere, so they don’t actually drive local high-tech industry? This electronics clusters is related to Sporting Goods export.. Maybe the Electronics cluster is really a cluster of “Things Exported from China, Indonesia and Korea”?

It would be cool if the interactive version let you see the countries involved in creating a specific proximity edge … ‘tho it might be possible to infer some of this by comparing the country-specific maps they show in the Atlas.

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