Are you able to answer which country has a higher child mortality rate in these 5 pairs:

  • Sri Lanka or Turkey
  • Poland or South Korea
  • Pakistan or Vietnam
  • Thailand or South Africa

Well, if you only got only 1 or 2 correct (see below), you are in good company as the top Swedish students at Sweden’s world-renowned Karolinska Institute scored on average 1.8/5, and their professors scored on average 2.5/5. This, Hands Rosling, a global health expert and data visionary, says is not due to ignorance, but it is due to the fact that even the most educated and well-traveled among us have preconceived notions about the developing world. One of the best ways to dispel the common myths about the West and the Third World is to use data and data visualization to truly see global trends– and he does so vividly in this stunning TED Talk on global development (watch above).

Did you know that Vietnam has the same life expectancy and family size as the USA did in 1974 (at the end of the war)? Or that it’s easier for a country to move forward if they are healthy first than if they are wealthy first, as most positive changes, Rosling points out, are due to social changes that occur before economic changes, as did for example in China.

Using a data visualization tool, Rosling brings global trends in health and economics into focus as he drills down, highlights trends, and makes correlations between regions around the world, and even the vasts differences in health and prosperity within different parts of the same region. This shows us that understanding how to improve the world must be highly contextualized–it cannot be done by looking at stats on regional level as the nuances are far more complex and detailed than the statistical generalizations. This is why it is irrelevant to discuss a single strategy to prevent HIV in a region like Africa, since the region’s economic and social well being varies so much internally, you couldn’t apply the same method. You’ll see income distribution in completely new ways, as the Third World is clearly on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity as the West, with many countries moving twice as fast as the West did.

Rosling’s bottom line hits close to home for us at Sisense, where we also believe that making information easy to access and visualize, will actually change the quality of information itself. We also share a dream with Rosling, as he hopes to create a way for the world to have data at the tips of their fingers, so they can discover, access and search all available data to improve the world with those insights. Answers: (Turkey, Poland, Russia, Pakistan, South Africa)

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