At Polecat we are driven by a belief that data has the power to inspire people and transform their lives. It is this belief that drives us to continuously improve our products, to present the data that we gather in new, beautiful and compelling ways. However, we weren’t the first to embrace this idea. Many of us at Polecat are inspired by the life and work of Hans Rosling, a prominent physician, academic, and public speaker who had a passion for bringing statistics to life in a way that informed and inspired. We were saddened to hear of his passing earlier this month and wanted to pay tribute by remembering some of his many contributions to society.
Freeing the World Bank’s Data
It used to be that the vast wealth of historic economic statistics owned by the World Bank was not freely available to the public. Hans campaigned with other leaders and organisations to change that and in 2010 the World Bank updated their data policy, opening up their coffers to the world.
However, that data wasn’t very relatable to most people. Hans applied the World Bank’s data to visualisation software he developed in partnership with Google. Plotting more than 120,000 numbers, Gapminder world puts the World Bank’s statistics right at your fingertips, allowing you to explore and learn in an intimate and beautiful setting. If you’d like a personal tour, Hans will walk you through 200 years of global economic growth in this 4-minute clip from the BBC.
TED talks galore
As a public speaker, Hans was full of energy. He contributed a record 10 Ted talks, the most given by a single person. Using compelling visuals and tools (such as an extra-long pointer) he used data to tell stories that captivated his audiences. As Ted puts it, ‘In Hans Rosling’s hands, data sings.’ Here are a few of our favourite talks:
The Gapminder Foundation
Hans formed the Gapminder Foundation in 2006 with two of his children. Its purpose is to fight devastating misconceptions about global development by promoting a fact-based worldview everyone can understand. To achieve that goal there are several tools on the website which present data about global development in a compelling and easy to understand format. In addition to the Gapminder World tool mentioned earlier there is also the dollar street tool, which imagines the world as a single street where homes are lined up by income. It’s a sobering experience that takes you on a walk down the street to visit your less fortunate neighbours, where you can see their homes, their beds and even their toilets. We invite you to spend time exploring the many tools on Gapminder. We learned a lot and are sure that you will too.