Renowned education and data visionary Hans Rosling died on Tuesday, February 7. Rosling, who tried to make data accessible to all to achieve his dream of a “fact-based world view” called himself an “edutainer”. The data which Rosling dealt with was concerned with global health, population and climate change – all serious, complex stuff – but he was able to present it in a compelling and engaging manner.
The video above is a segement from a talk Rosling gave in 2013 for Ted-Ed, where he presented data and facts with the urgency of a sports commentator. In the talk, Rosling described his “unethical experiments” with students and teachers, and how he discovered that both his students and professors of the Karolinska Institute, which chooses the winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, “are on par with the chimpanzee” when it comes to knowledge about the world.
In the course of the talk, where he made the audience understand the complex data in issues concerning health and child mortality, Rosling also explained the problem with data visualisation: “And even more, policymakers and the corporate sector would like to see how the world is changing. Now, why doesn’t this take place? Why are we not using the data we have? We have data in the United Nations, in the national statistical agencies and in universities and other non-governmental organisations. Because the data is hidden down in the databases. And the public is there, and the internet is there, but we have still not used it effectively.”
Rosling also explained the philosophy behind Gapminder, the organisation he founded: “So what is needed? We have the databases. It’s not the new database you need. We have wonderful design tools, and more and more are added up here. So we started a nonprofit venture which, linking data to design, we called Gapminder, from the London Underground, where they warn you, ‘mind the gap’.”