Government Structure

A visual and analytical exploration of the functional structures of the fifty US state governments.

Science by Stephen Kosack, Michele Coscia, Evann Smith, Albert-László Barabási and Ricardo Hausmann. Visualizations by Kim Albrecht.

We call the above graphic the 'centrality visualization'. Each circle represents one specific function the government performs for its citizens. The larger the points, the more websites of agencies tasked with that function. The lines between the points indicate hyperlinks between agencies tasked with each of the functions.


The online footprints of modern governments open a new window to understanding them.
Governments in modern societies undertake an array of complex functions that shape politics and economics, individual and group behavior, and the natural, social, and built environment. How are governments structured to execute these diverse responsibilities? How do those structures vary, and what explains the similarities? To examine these longstanding questions, we develop a technique for mapping Internet "footprint" of government with network science methods. We use this approach to describe and analyze the diversity in functional scale and structure among the 50 state governments reflected in the webpages and links they have created online: 32.5 million webpages of and 110 million hyperlinks among 47,631 agencies.

Scientific Paper

The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in October 2018.

Download the Paper Download the Supplementary Material


The Internet Footprint of U.S. State Governments.

A: This visualization represents the process for generating and validating the data on state government functional structures.

B: The structure of the Massachusetts state government reflected online is significantly similar to the structure mandated by the Massachusetts General Laws. Red nodes and links are present in both the online and mandated networks; yellow nodes and links are present only in the mandated network; blue nodes and links are present only in the online network.

Download Datasets

Download the main datasets for the study:

The 50 US State Networks Scripts to reproduce the paper's results Full package (Data + Scripts)


State Networks

Differences and similarities of states can be explored by comparing multiple states in the interactive state visualization, using the same structure as the introduction visualization above. Additionally you can also explore all states centrality visualizations on one page.

Interactive State Network Visualization
Alternative Network Aggregations

There are multiple levels of aggregations at which we can visualize the web footprints of US state governments. In all the examples above each circle corresponded to the specific functions which had been identified thoughout the research. Here are two other views we can look at:

Website Network

This visualization shows the network at the level of individual websites. Each point represents one agency’s website, and each link represents links between those websites.Websites with many links between them are close in the visualization. The different visible clusters correspond to the 50 US states. We highlight three of them, Georgia, South Carolina, and Massachusetts.

Specific Function Network

We categorize agency websites into 166 specific functions nested within 28 general functional categories. This visualization shows websites aggregated at the level of the 166 specific functions and how they are connected through hyperlinks to one another.

The functional network for each state.

General Function Network

This visualization shows websites aggregated into 28 general functional categories.


Stephen Kosack

Associate Professor of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington, Seattle

Michele Coscia

Assistant Professor at IT University of Copenhagen

Evann Smith

Senior Data Scientist at Bechtel Corporation

Kim Albrecht

Visual Researcher and Information Designer at metaLAB (at) Harvard

Albert-László Barabási

Robert Gray Dodge Professor of Network Science and a Distinguished University Professor at Northeastern University

Ricardo Hausmann

Professor of the Practice of Economic Development Director, Center for International Development

A project by Stephen Kosack, Michele Coscia, Evann Smith, Kim Albrecht, Albert-László Barabási and Ricardo Hausmann.

Supported by University of Washington, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and the National Science Foundation.