Simplified Global Trend Statistics: Gapminder

A web service that specializes in providing time series of development activity statistics for all the world’s countries, Gapminder is a modern museum which allows for a simple overview of overall progress among nations.

It was first formulated in Sweden in 2006 to complement the Trendalyzer software, which is the platform that puts statistics to animated images. In 2007, Google bought Trendalyzer from the Gapminder development team; they soon followed suit and joined Google in California.

Gapminder is free to use and easy to navigate. The Gapminder World section provides not only data for comparing countries; there are sections for U.S. interstate and provinces of China and India versus the rest of the world analyses. Some of the data available goes back as far as the year 1800. Data providers which supplied the information at hand are only a click away; all statistics are verified and official.

A total of 260 countries and territories are covered by Gapminder. Although they all have varying degrees of completion (based upon available data), the minds behind the website have pledged to have no less than two indicators (or categories, one of the two being population) filled in for each separate entity.

The graphs feature anything from birth/death, unemployment, aid provided rates (all conveniently categorized by age), new and fatal cases of cancer among male and female subgroups, number of people living in extreme poverty, amount of women taking birth control, and hundreds more. On the front page, a handful of links for the most important trends are conveniently placed.

The creative, minimalistic design of the charts instills a sense of clarity and order; this is especially beneficial for simplifying numerical stats. Rather than going through official records and having to fumble with digits and percentages, one can easily open it all in one place.

In an attempt to “fight devastating ignorance with fact-based worldviews everyone can understand,” Gapminder is a comprehensive website, accessible to and widely used by teachers and corporations alike. Statistics gain shape for making up a unique overview of the past two centuries. The platform leaves room for free exploration – browsing the website, one feels invited, even compelled, to look up data at random.

Focusing on a specific topic? Gapminder has a whole section of videos, some of which present curious statistical shifts while others are case studies from outside sources explaining certain phenomena.

The website itself is no longer updated on a regular basis; the blog has but a couple scarce posts since 2011, the news section is outdated, and no major changes to the platform itself have been made recently. But the innovative system is not forgotten. Gapminder has released an offline version of its web-based library; a program is available for swift download which puts Gapminder World right on the user’s desktop.

Visualization is the main strategy of Gapminder – trends that don’t seem out of the ordinary on paper will ‘pop out’ in the graphs, saving the user time while providing a fresh perspective on worldwide occurrences. An intelligent take on unifying data, Gapminder is an invaluable tool for studying causal relationships between global factors and understanding social trends.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: Gap Minder, Singularity Hub
Photo: Ann Michaelson