Stats That Reshape Your World-View by Hans Rosling (Transcript)

I would like to compare South Korea, which is this one, with Brazil, which is this one. The label went away for me here. And I would like to compare Uganda, which is there. And I can run it forward, like this. And you can see how South Korea is making a very, very fast advancement, whereas Brazil is much slower.

And if we move back again, here, and we put on trails on them, like this, you can see again that the speed of development is very, very different, and the countries are moving more or less in the same rate as money and health, but it seems you can move much faster if you are healthy first than if you are wealthy first. And to show that, you can put on the way of United Arab Emirate. They came from here, a mineral country. They cached all the oil; they got all the money; but health cannot be bought at the supermarket. You have to invest in health. You have to get kids into schooling. You have to train health staff. You have to educate the population. And Sheikh Sayed did that in a fairly good way. In spite of falling oil prices, he brought this country up here. So we’ve got a much more mainstream appearance of the world, where all countries tend to use their money better than they used in the past. Now, this is, more or less, if you look at the average data of the countries — they are like this.

Now that’s dangerous, to use average data, because there is such a lot of difference within countries. So if I go and look here, we can see that Uganda today is where South Korea was 1960. If I split Uganda, there’s quite a difference within Uganda. These are the quintiles of Uganda. The richest 20 percent of Ugandans are there. The poorest are down there. If I split South Africa, it’s like this. And if I go down and look at Niger, where there was such a terrible famine, lastly, it’s like this. The 20 percent poorest of Niger is out here, and the 20 percent richest of South Africa is there, and yet we tend to discuss on what solutions there should be in Africa. Everything in this world exists in Africa. And you can’t discuss universal access to HIV [medicine] for that quintile up here with the same strategy as down here. The improvement of the world must be highly contextualized, and it’s not relevant to have it on regional level. We must be much more detailed. We find that students get very excited when they can use this.

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And even more policy makers and the corporate sectors would like to see how the world is changing. Now, why doesn’t this take place? Why are we not using the data we have? We have data in the United Nations, in the national statistical agencies and in universities and other non-governmental organizations. Because the data is hidden down in the databases. And the public is there, and the Internet is there, but we have still not used it effectively.

All that information we saw changing in the world does not include publicly-funded statistics. There are some web pages like this, you know, but they take some nourishment down from the databases, but people put prices on them, stupid passwords and boring statistics.

And this won’t work. So what is needed? We have the databases. It’s not the new database you need. We have wonderful design tools, and more and more are added up here. So we started a nonprofit venture which we called — linking data to design — we call it Gapminder, from the London underground, where they warn you, “mind the gap.” So we thought Gapminder was appropriate. And we started to write software which could link the data like this. And it wasn’t that difficult. It took some person years, and we have produced animations. You can take a data set and put it there. We are liberating U.N. data, some few UN organization.

Some countries accept that their databases can go out on the world, but what we really need is, of course, a search function. A search function where we can copy the data up to a searchable format and get it out in the world. And what do we hear when we go around? I’ve done anthropology on the main statistical units. Everyone says, “It’s impossible. This can’t be done. Our information is so peculiar in detail, so that cannot be searched as others can be searched. We cannot give the data free to the students, free to the entrepreneurs of the world.” But this is what we would like to see, isn’t it? The publicly-funded data is down here. And we would like flowers to grow out on the Net. And one of the crucial points is to make them searchable, and then people can use the different design tool to animate it there. And I have a pretty good news for you. I have a good news that the present, new Head of U.N. Statistics, he doesn’t say it’s impossible. He only says, “We can’t do it.” And that’s a quite clever guy, huh?

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So we can see a lot happening in data in the coming years. We will be able to look at income distributions in completely new ways. This is the income distribution of China, 1970. the income distribution of the United States, 1970. Almost no overlap. Almost no overlap. And what has happened? What has happened is this: that China is growing, it’s not so equal any longer, and it’s appearing here, overlooking the United States. Almost like a ghost, isn’t it, huh?

It’s pretty scary. But I think it’s very important to have all this information. We need really to see it. And instead of looking at this, I would like to end up by showing the Internet users per 1,000. In this software, we access about 500 variables from all the countries quite easily. It takes some time to change for this, but on the axises, you can quite easily get any variable you would like to have. And the thing would be to get up the databases free, to get them searchable, and with a second click, to get them into the graphic formats, where you can instantly understand them. Now, statisticians doesn’t like it, because they say that this will not show the reality; we have to have statistical, analytical methods. But this is hypothesis-generating.

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