Hans Rosling: Measuring Global Progress

Hans Rosling is one of my favorite TED presenters.  I’ll find links to two of his earlier talks for those readers who are not familiar with his work and include them at the end of this posting.  I was just on TED and noticed that he has a new talk.  It’s 15 minutes long and it’s a thoughtful look at how many African nations are making substantial progress in child mortality rates, but that progress is masked because we think of “Sub-Saharan Africa” as one entity, rather than as separate countries.

He makes the analogy that we don’t speak of the economies of Sweden (where he’s from and where GDP is high) and Greece (on the verge of collapse) as the same just because they are in “Europe” — so should also not group Ghana’s and Kenya’s progress with that of the Congo.  In the screen capture below, child mortality rate per 1000 born is on the left axis, and time is on the bottom.  Over time, Sweden (in orange) made admirable progress, but its rate of progress was actually lower than that of Ghana and Kenya (the two lower blue lines).  It’s also not fair to lump Congo (top blue graph), which is having a bloody civil war, with Ghana and Kenya.  The other countries on the screen capture below are Thailand (in red) and what he calls an amazing, but under-reported success story: the progress Egypt (in Green) has made since 1960.

At the end of the video, he makes the point that there is no such thing, any more, as the “developing world” in terms of which countries have low child mortality rates.

You have to see the video, but this screen capture shows children per woman on the bottom (ranging from 0-8) and child mortality on the left.

This is where the world was in 1960:

The “developing” countries are in the big box in the upper right corner, with high birth rates and high child mortality rates, while the “western” countries are in the lower left, with low birth rates and low infant mortality.

And here’s how it is now —

I highly highly recommend that you watch Hans Rosling’s TED Talk.

And if you like what you see, check out these earlier talks by Hans Rosling:

The best stats you’ve ever seen — 20 minutes — it starts slow, but stick with it!

The Impossible is Possible — new insights into poverty — also 20 minutes, but stay with it to the end — he does something AMAZING at the end (and gets a well-deserved standing ovation).

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About Steve Goldberg

I teach U.S. History at Research Triangle High School, a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning.
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