A Kiwi company is helping global news agency Associated Press build interactive data graphics as part of a Microsoft project.

Enlighten Designs, a New Zealand software and website design company, is working with the Seattle-based tech giant on its data journalism program.

That scheme aims to help teach journalists how to use Microsoft's business intelligence and analytics software - called Power BI - to create and publish data visualisations on their websites.

These visualisations graphically depict large sets of data to help people make better sense of the information. They also can allow readers to interact with the data in question.


Enlighten's chief executive Damon Kelly says his company has worked with several US media organisations over the past year through Microsoft's program.

Speaking to the Herald in Seattle at the Microsoft Data Insights Summit, Kelly said Enlighten collaborated with news outlets which were using Power BI, did any technical "heavy lifting" that was needed and provided teams with training or support.

One benefit Enlighten gained from being involved in the data journalism program was gaining the status of a Microsoft partner vendor in the US.

"Which effectively makes Microsoft our client ... picking up Microsoft as a client is not bad especially out of New Zealand. Especially when you consider we're working for Microsoft Corp in America that's really significant," Kelly said.

The company had a long-standing relationship with Microsoft and has been working with its services since about 1999 - when Kelly set up Enlighten in a caravan at the back of his house.

In recent weeks Enlighten - which has 75 staff in Auckland and Hamilton offices - has helped Associated Press (AP) build an interactive map for its coverage of Tuesday night's local government primary in the US state of Virginia.

The visualisation - created using the Power BI tool - delivered audiences real-time election results as they came in from the ballot box.

Importantly, the visualisation was designed to allow news organisations that subscribe to AP's wire services to customise it and show how their local communities voted.


In minutes, these media outlets could quickly and simply display this information as an interactive graphic on their own websites.

Microsoft announced this morning that the AP would further use Power BI in a pilot program and take a similar approach to other data sets it gathers and releases.

"The pilot program will enable local and regional news outlets to more easily uncover and report the data-driven local stories most interesting to their audiences through AP's use of Power BI," Microsoft said in a website post.

"We are excited to be in the trenches with Associated Press," the company said.

- Hamish Fletcher travelled to the Microsoft Insights Data Summit with assistance from Microsoft.