At a glance
Let's look at a few stills from Hans Rosling's talk below.
Above. One box represents one billion people. In 1960 there were one billion people in the industrialized world and two billion in the developing world. The gap on the table between the blue box and the yellow boxes represents the large socio-economic gap that existed in 1960.
Above. In 1960 those in the developed world aspired to buy a car, those in the developing world aspired to buy shoes. What Hans wants to show is that in spite of some of the old "the West and the Rest" language that is still used today, the world has changed.
Above. Here you can see the gap between the poorest of the developing (yellow/green boxes) nations and the rich (blue box) nations is much larger. The two billion of the poorest nations are struggling almost as much as in 1960, Hans says. In between the poorest and the richest are the emerging economies, the bulk of the world population. Hans's point is that while there is a "continuous world" from the poorest to the richest and no longer just a simplistic "us and them" or "the West and the Rest," the troubling part is that the poor are still very poor.
Above. For sure China is going to catch up by 2050 just like Japan did, Hans says, and if we invest well in green technology, etc. the emerging nations will move up right along the richest nations.
Above. Now how about the poorest two billion, will they catch up? The problem here, as Hans explains, is one of population growth (note that the two boxes have become four). In the rich and emerging countries, population growth will have essentially stopped by 2050. However, in the poorest countries the population will double by 2050 as demonstrated above.
Above. We've got to make a change so that people on this level are not stuck looking for food and shoes (i.e, move them away from poverty and its consequences), otherwise population growth will continue. However, if (and only if) they get out of poverty, get better health care, achieve high child-survival rates, etc. then the birth rate will stop increasing in 2050.
Above. Turning to the digital display to reinforce the point Hans shows how much of the world now has good child-survival rates and smaller families, but the two billion of the poorest still have a relatively large number of births per woman and poor child-survival rates. (Note how the analog box metaphor is also shown in the graph next to the population bubbles they represented earlier.)
The point is not to do it like Hans or even to use Gapminder software. The real point is for us to ask ourselves how we can incorporate digital and analog techniques into our presentations in a way that helps make the data come alive and illuminate the story in an honest and yet engaging and memorable way. There are many ways to do this; Hans Rosling's style is just one approach. But as Hans (and his team at Gapminder) has shown many times, data is not dull, in fact it tells a story.