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TED talk from Hans Rosling: Debunking Developing World Myths with Data

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUwS1uAdUcI]

This is an absolutely brilliant talk about data and its use in the developing world by Hans Rosling. Rosling, at least according to Wikipedia, is “Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institutet and Director of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software system. From 1967 to 1974 he studied statistics and medicine at Uppsala University, and in 1972 he studied public health at St John’s Medical College, Bangalore. He became a licenced physician in 1976 and from 1979 to 1981 he served as District Medical Officer in Nacala in northern Mozambique.”

He breaks down statistics from a visual point of view and the results are breathtaking. Evaluate your own assumptions before heading into it. What do you think of the life expectancy of China as opposed to the birth rate? What about Africa? Eastern vs. Western Europe? Most of my assumptions proved false.

It tells an interesting story when he breaks apart the African continent, showing the absolute divergences that occur there. Some have life expectancies under 40 years; some more than 70.

From my own line of work, I love the recommendations he makes about data and how to get at it. It is not enough that this data exists; it must be presented in meaningful ways. Who gets to decide what is meaningful? Whomever figures out how to extract meaning from the data. Jump in, mix up the data, and present it in new and unique ways. Greater revolutions have begun with simpler strategies than that. It is a recurring theme that we hear again and again in this world of limitless information and one that can serve as the mantra of the developing world (indeed, the world at large) when thinking about data and information:

Help me make sense of it all. Help me use it to my advantage. Help me build upon the work of others. Help me improve my lot in life. Help me make the world a better place with it.

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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