Friday, July 24, 2009

TED: Hans Rosling shows the best stats you've ever seen

This is an semi-old talk (from 2006), but I just saw it this morning. Hans Rosling is a professor in global health and a "regular" on the TED talk circuit (by that, I mean he's done 3 talks). However, he spends a lot of time talking about data and statistics. This has traditionally been a tune-out for me, but he does it in a way that is fresh and exciting. He's also a sword-swallower, so there you go.

This talk, "Hans Rosling shows the best stats you've ever seen" not only represents data is really exciting ways, it also presents the fallacy of the first-world imagination of developing nations: namely, that our view of "developing" countries is a mythology outdated by about 40 years; and that we need to approach our definition of developing country in a more nuanced way. It's accompanied by some super kick-ass visuals and animations that really illustrate his points.

My favorite quotes from this -

On HIV strategies for Africa:
"...that's dangerous, to use average data, because there is such a lot of difference within countries...The 20 percent poorest in Niger is out there [points to location off the chart] and the 20 percent richest in South Africa is there, and yet we tend to discuss on what solutions there should be in Africa...And you can't discuss universal access to HIV [medicine] for that quintile up there with the same strategy as down here."
On advancement over the last 40 years, and the fastest way to the top:
"...the speed of development is very, very different, and countries are moving more or less in the same rate as money and health, but it seems that you can move much faster if you are healthy first than if you are wealthy first."

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