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Genocides jumping off the chart

Humanitarian dramas can be documented in films, but also in statistical graphics.

A striking example of such an information visualization is Gapminder. Created in 2005 by Swedish doctor and researcher Hans Rosling, Gapminder has been making statistics more enjoyable and understandable for large audiences.

Gapminder visualizes statistical data in maps and charts in which each country of the world is represented by a colored bubble. The colors of the bubbles represent the regions of the world, while the sizes of the bubbles are proportional to the countries’ populations. The bubbles are positioned in an interactive two-axis chart. Using these simple visual tools, Gapminder is able to show the development over time of, for example, infant mortality rates, income per capita, etc. for all countries. The amazing resulting visuals have even attracted the attention of people who usually are “allergic” for charts and statistics.

By plotting, for example, average life expectancy against the average number of children per woman, you will literally see that in the 1960s, the countries of the world were divided into two clusters: rich countries where people were living long lives in small families, versus poor countries where people were living short lives in large families. And you will see that now, in 2008, this division into two clusters of countries has disappeared: most poor countries have meanwhile moved upwards towards the rich countries, also enjoying longer lives in smaller families. An exception is Africa, where average life expectancy in many countries has dropped dramatically due to the HIV-epidemic. And there are other cases of dropping life expectancy that strike the eye: life expectancy dropped to 31 years in Cambodia in 1975, and even to 24 years in Rwanda in 1990. Here genocides jump at us from these charts.

Take a look at Gapminder World to explore and interact with the data, and at the Gapminder website to learn more about Gapminder.