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What Does the Data Say?

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Minding the gaps

What Does the Data Say?

One of the great places to go on the web for perspective on global development and the impact of aid programs is Gapminder. It’s amazing.

The Gapminder World web service lets you visualize and track all countries’ progress on many different measures of health, education and the other indices involved in the UN Millennium Development Goals. What’s really great is how Gapminder World converts dry numbers into enjoyable, animated, interactive graphics, which reveal patterns and relationships in stunning ways. It’s a brilliant example of how the Internet and innovations in software have the potential to deliver truly extraordinary online learning experiences.

Gapminder’s chairman is Hans Rosling, who teaches global health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and who does a fantastic job of using Gapminder graphics to explain the great progress being made in global development and the important role that aid plays in that progress. His analysis and his perspective have been very much on my mind as I prepared my report to the G20 Summit on the importance of sustaining efforts to help the world’s poorest people.

Hans is a very entertaining speaker, as you can see from videos of his talks at TED and other forums.

In his TED talk on The Magic Washing Machine, for example, Hans points out how this household appliance, which most people in rich countries take for granted, is only a dream for most of the world’s people, but a dream that cannot and should not be denied. The implications of this progress for carbon emissions and global warming are an understandable worry for those of us in rich countries, but Hans also vividly demonstrates why our own carbon consumption should be our primary worry.

Hans recently stopped by The Gates Notes, and in this video he uses interactive graphics to discuss some very good news: Child mortality is rapidly declining in Tanzania, thanks in part to aid programs that have improved public health and provided access to family planning. Hans and Gapminder World also reveal the surprising relationship between child mortality and population growth – that as fewer children die, families actually get smaller.

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