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Free Data. Big Picture. Very Cool.
Alan AtKisson, 5 Apr 04

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I have just found my favorite get-the-big-picture, track-global-trends, follow-the-money-and-everything-else site ever.

It's called Gapminder.

Go ahead, just click on that little underlined word there. And be prepared to spend a very satisfying several hours. Learning.

Watch as simple moving bubbles show how every country in the world got richer and healthier ... until the 1990s. Then AIDS, economic shock therapy, and the crosswinds of globalization started pulling some countries back down the ladder.

Watch the bubbles explode into little bubbles, showing you things like the vast differences within China. Shanghai's like Portugal, but the poorest provinces are like Tajikistan (which is having a relatively hard time).

See anomalies like Cuba, sitting in a strange zone nearly by itself, very poor, but very healthy.

Learn about education (see the chart; it's downloadable). Learn about the Millennium Development Goals, and watch little country-bubbles race toward the 2015 finish line. The thrill of victory for some, the very painful agony of defeat for others. (NB: Any American over 35 who watched ABC Wide World of Sports as a youngster will get the postmodern reference in the previous sentence.)

Oh, I could wax on in rhapsody about the wonderful service these folks have done, putting complex global data into a format anyone can understand, making the data tell its very important story ... and its all free. As it should be.

My only complaint concerns what they haven't gotten around to doing yet, things like energy, climate, biodiversity, number of lattes per capita. But what they've done is truly a beautiful thing, and not just to a global data geek. Ignore the numbers, if you're not so inclined, and enjoy it as art.

Lots to download. Runs on your computer, if you aren't in the Mac minority (I am). Otherwise you can just browse, read ... and wonder.

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