Hans Rosling is a physician from Sweden who spent the better part of his life travelling to remote places in Africa to study the local health situation. Among other things he earned his PhD degree on documenting a before then unknown paralytic disease later named Konzo.
Besides being a doctor Rosling has a second passion: statistics. Feeling dissatisfied with the public availability of facts on global development, health, the environment etc. he started the Gapminder foundation. This non-profit organization tries to collect data from a variety of public sources and make it available to the general audience in one easy to access location. Furthermore they developed a processing tool called Trendalyzer to be able to make the trends insightful. A web based version of this tool can be found here.
The gapminder world tool is delightful to play with for anyone who is interested in current affairs. With just the touch of a button it is possible to plot health or environmental trends over the last 100 years. Another press of the button and one could study the relation between wealth and child mortality. Of course not everything is available but a lot is and the amount of available data is growing. Furthermore the site is filled with presentations of Rosling himself using his tool to show trends that are often quite different from what we see in the mainstream media.
As a final remark a word of caution, I do not think statistics just by themselves proof anything as every set of data can be made to fit almost any theory (torturing the data until it confesses). Nevertheless gapminder world can be a very powerful (and let’s not forget enjoyable) tool if used properly, even if it only could be used challenging the many (unfounded) preconceptions we all have about the world around us.
Besides all the video’s on the gapminder website Hans Rosling also gave a series of very lively TED talks from which this is one.