Traditional GIS software has some very powerful tools. Three dimensional terrain maps, tools for remote sensing inputs, network analysis...there's no surprise that tomes of instructions are tutorials have been published.
But last fall, Google launched their Fusion Tables application. And for projecting policy data, it's a game changer.
Still an "experimental" application, Fusion Tables allows for "merging" of data tables onto their pre-loaded boundary files. Above, a survey of diabetes rates by county was merged onto Google's county boundary files. Some quick manipulation of the data, scales, color gradients, and voila. Unfortunately, what's become somewhat of a theme in this blog, Southern and Mid-Western states have some of the highest rates of Diabetes.
One of ArcMap's most significant flaws is its lack of interactive features. Each map published is static. The viewer can't explore the layer's features and attributes or zoom into areas of interest.
Suites like ArcMap aren't going anywhere. It still has an arsenal of tools that Google can't offer. But a goal of policy analysis is to inform and educate, and engaging the viewer with an interactive experience that satisfies any additional queries they might have, but also sparks curiosity into the data and the policy, is something far more exciting than a static map.