mind the gaps
If, like me, you have an interest in demographics and the state of the world, Google has just the tool for you: The Gapminder. Basically, it plots demographic data on a chart that is animated to let you plot changes over time.
For a sample of what makes this an engrossing tool, try the following:
- select Population on the x-axis, and Life Expectancy on the y-axis;
- hit Play to animate the chart over the period 1960-2004;
- watch what happens during the early 1990s; a little dot plummets to the bottom of the chart, then pops back up again;
- what country is that? Scroll the chart till the dot reaches bottom, and select it;
- the country is Rwanda, the stats for the point you select are shown on the axes.
- Play the chart again: Rwanda’s basic demographics are plotted as a line that bucks the expected upward trend.
- Not only does the Life Expectancy plummet to just 24 in 1992, between 1990 and 1995 the population drops from around 7 million to under 5½ million.
The dip in Rwanda’s population is, of course, the Rwandan Genocide; that is now part of history, but Zimbabwe’s Life Expectancy has been in the news. Mugabe’s repressive regime puts the Leader and his Ideology over all other concerns, including the basic health of Zimbabwe’s people. Sure enough, selecting Zimbabwe on the map lets you follow the country down, to a Life Expectancy of just 34 in 2004.
There are more stats in there now, and surely more to follow. I ought to find up some positive stats too, just to stop me getting too fatalistic, but positive stats are going to be hard to find in there. OK, Ireland now has the highest per capita earnings of any country in the world – but do I see any of that bounty?