Imagine you are an ER doctor trying to treat a very ill patient who has no medical history and only a vague recollection of symptoms. What would you do if you were the doctor? Trust your gut? Trust that the patient has chronicled his symptoms accurately enough to warrant an accurate diagnosis? This is perhaps how policymakers and aid workers felt back in 2001 when they were deciding where to begin the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
A number of World Bank Open Data users have been taking advantage of the new Databank. Databank offers over 8,000 indicators with which to create and save custom reports with tables, charts, or maps. The saved reports are updated automatically when the data are udpated. And you can revisit, share, and embed the tables, charts, or maps as widgets on websites or blogs.
(Also available in Chinese)
As an economist monitoring the macroeconomic developments of the Chinese economy, dealing with data is one of my main jobs. I am so happy that now I have a new tool to handle data and make economic analysis. It is the World Bank Open Data platform launched recently. Based on my user experience till now, I found two features of it are specially worth highlighting:
Usually, when we think of humanitarian relief, images of food drops or internally displaced persons (IDP) camps first come to mind but there is a whole world of altruism that has emerged which is helping behind the scenes in times of crises. Detailed maps are critical to delivering humanitarian relief to the millions of Pakistanis that have been affected by flooding.
Map Kibera trained residents to create the first online, public map of Kibera,in Kenya.
Do you have good crowdsourcing for development examples?
We’ve written before about a climate-related effort in developing countries known as REDD – or Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation. So one of the outcomes during last month’s U.N. climate conference that I found particularly interesting was an announcement from Google.org. During the conference in Copenhagen, the search giant's philanthropic arm introduced the prototype for an online application that will allow monitoring of forests around the planet.
Apparently, some believed that the overall topic of REDD may have been one of the few bright spots during the two-week conference. To me, it seems like this forthcoming online monitoring tool is no exception – particularly because Google products are often innovative, easy to use and reliable.
The announcement generated quite bit of media buzz, and Google.org’s press release has a nice explanation of why the online application, likely available to the public some time this year, might be so significant:
Traditional forest monitoring is complex and expensive, requiring access to large amounts of satellite data, lots of hard drives to hold the data, lots of computers to process the data, and lots of time while you wait for various computations to finish. … Google supplies data, storage, and computing muscle. As a result, you can visualize forest change in fractions of a second over the web, instead of the minutes or hours that traditional offline systems require for such analysis.
If you haven’t already taken the time to do some development-related Googling after last week’s announcement that World Bank statistics are now available through the ubiquitous search engine’s public data tool, I’d suggest exploring the exciting new feature. Now, anyone can easily access 17 World Development Indicators by searching for them in Google. Give it a try by searching for the GDP of China or CO2 emissions of Indonesia or exports of Thailand – or another country and any of these indicators.
When you click on the search result, an interactive chart page shows you how the data have changed over time and allows you to compare to other countries (or the world). (You can also embed the chart, like the one below.) For example, take a look at how the GDP growth rate of China compares to Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines in the last 50 years.
To further explore the data, check out another nifty tool, also launched last week by the World Bank. DataFinder lets you research more about these development indicators and see how they look on an interactive map. Read more about DataFinder here.
As next month’s climate change conference in Copenhagen draws closer, we are undoubtedly going to see the amount of online discourse on the topic continue to increase. The latest example comes from the British government, which last week released an interactive map showing the possible impact of a global temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit). An article in the Guardian says the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre produced the map based on a recent study that indicates, "such a 4C rise could come as soon as 2060 without urgent and serious action to reduce emissions." The newspaper also quotes the government’s chief scientist as saying that such a temperature shift would be “disastrous.”
Indeed, after exploring the map for just a few minutes, you see how devastating the consequences of a warmer planet might be. By zooming in and clicking and dragging with your mouse, you can navigate the map to see what could happen to different parts of the globe. Be sure to click on some of the plus signs, which give you a brief overview of an issue and the option to click to learn more and view sources of the research. The map, its creators say, displays the latest in peer-reviewed climate change research.
Looking around East Asia, you’ll see that some of the impacts listed include decrease in rice yield, extreme temperatures in population centers of eastern China, and flooding caused by rising sea levels.
Click on the map to interact. View full screen map here.
(Hat tip: From Poverty to Power blog.)
Here’s an interesting and quick item to check out on a Friday. This map gives an attractive, at-a-glace look at some of the world’s key natural resources, organized by country. A couple of things to note that are East Asia-related: China leads more categories (at least on this map) than any other country, including wheat, cotton, gold and rice.
After five years in Indonesia, my family and I have left this wonderful country and moved to Kenya. The last five years have been excellent years for Indonesia. The economy stabilized, growth resumed and services started to improve, although modestly and not in all areas. Indonesia still remains an underrated country, but this may change. Indonesia has only mildly been affected by the global crisis.
It always seems to be the case that by simply writing or saying something, you can hardly get the same point across as by presenting it in a visual way. For example, it’s one thing to say, “three billion people (a little less than half the world’s population) comprise the bottom 5 percent of global GDP contributors.” But as the Strange Maps blog points out, it’s a little more eye-opening to show a map with those countries completely missing.
I’m not sure this map accomplishes much more than to illustrate a single interesting point – unlike the SHOW World animated maps we wrote about earlier this year or the popular WorldMapper Collection, both of which put several data sets in a visual format.
The map does, however, highlight the interesting fact that most of the countries represented are either in Southeast Asia or Africa. Check it out here.
A promising web find that should catch the attention of our resident biodiversity expert, Tony, if it hasn't already: scientists from around the world are gathering this week in London for the e-Biosphere Conference, where they'll present and discuss a project to create a "macroscopic observatory" of biodiversity that
I was never too great with numbers or math. I guess you could call me a visual learner. Which is why I was intrigued after exploring Gapminder.org. The non-profit organization behind the website says it's dedicated to "unveiling the beauty of statistics." They attempt to do this with impressively interactive and animated graphs.
|Click map to enlarge.|
It's nearly 35 years since I first flew over Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. Looking out of the plane window, the dark green forests stretched to the horizon. Even if there weren't any Truffula trees, there were many herds of elephants, families of tigers, groups of monkeys and many thousands of lone orangutans calling and moving around the forest, hardly ever crossing paths with humans. Then came the organized loggers, the transmigration settlements, and the plantations – rubber, oil palm and industrial timber.
About half Sumatra's forests have been lost since 1985. Last year, a WWF report (pdf) found that forest cover in Riau province, central Sumatra, has fallen from 78% to 25% in 25 years.