Mind the (visual) gap

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No, not an ad for London's underground, but a healthy reminder from Hans Rosling, co-founder of Gapminder of how the lack of common data standards and compelling visual display is hampering development work and perpetuating stereotypes.

In a must-see presentation for TED, Rosling deconstructs a few development myths through a tour de force of animated graphics. One could almost hear Edward Tufte clapping in the background.

The potential for the private sector? Enormous, as Rosling hints. Imagine, for example, an application that allows local communities to visually display the impact of a project on their surroundings. Or a map that draws together biodiversity or indigenous populations' data from all available sources for a unified view of a selected project area.

A couple of other sites (in no particular order) that are trying to fill the visual gap:

  • Maplecroft maps offer global maps of dozens of social, environmental and political issues relevant to business and civil society - from corruption to landmines to tuberculosis
  • UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics library collects maps from the last 15 years on issues related to environment and sustainable development
  • Worldmapper promises to show you the world as you've never seen it before
  • And the World Bank's own Pegasys focuses on natural disaster hotspots and the MDGs.

Any graphically-minded entrepreneur out there ready to take up Rosling's challenge?

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