In April 2013 the collapse of a garment factory in Dhakar, Bangladesh, lead to more than 1000 deaths of garment workers and provoked a global outcry. However, the key barrier for labour right activists in engaging with the issue was the limited and scattered data about locations and building conditions of the garment factories providing cheap labour for the top international clothing brands.

School of Data initiated an investigation to map the garment factories in Bangladesh. Before the expedition, we organised a data collection drive to bring together the scattered data into one coherent dataset, enabling us to display who were the most major companies using cheap labour in low income countries. The result was the largest dataset of garment factories to data with 3,000 factories categorized by brand and location.

This effort is ongoing and results to date include the work of Anna Flagg, a data journalist, who connected garment factory locations gathered at the expedition to information on minimum wages (see visualisation above). Tarek Amr initiated an investigation into strikes at garment factories in Egypt. Chad Smith gathered the data from the expedition and verified the data collection.

Tarek Amr later joined School of Data as a mentor and trainer, conducting training in Arabic for news organisations in Egypt.

Chad Smith, approached the International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF) to explore how the data could be used further. Anna Flagg offered visualisation and data wrangling support to ILRF after Chad made the connections to the organisation. ILRF decided to dedicate several staff members to a joint follow-up data expedition to explore the data on the garment factories in Bangladesh in light of the newly published Bangladesh Safety Accord, which aims to provide greater transparency to the garment sector.