South Asia Advances on Visual Tool Comparing Development over Time


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The World Bank released its Data Visualizer tool last week, which compares 209 countries through the lens of 49 development indicators utilizing data ranging from 1960 to 2007. Using three dimensional bubbles whose sizes are proportional to populations and are color coded to the different regions (purple represents South Asia), they move horizontally or vertically based on their achievements on a number of indicators that range from GDP per capita to the percentage of children that are inoculated against measles.

Users will find similarities with the groundbreaking Gapminder World tool that Swedish Health Professor Hans Rosling first presented to the TED Conference in 2006. He concluded that the world is converging and that old notions of contrasting developed country (generally small families and long lives) with developing country (large families and short lives) to be grossly out of date.

I found the Data Visualizer exceptionally intuitive to use and very useful for visualizing changes to countries in South Asia over time through its animation feature, many of which have made dramatic improvements on a number of the indicators such as income per capita, life expectancy, malnutrition levels, and internet access.

When looking at South Asia, it is apparent that the majority of countries have improved on almost all the indicators. Life expectancy has increased dramatically throughout the region. In 1960, the life expectancy in Nepal was the lowest in the region at 38.7 while it was 62.1 in Sri Lanka, the highest in the region. By 2007, Nepal boasted a life expectancy of 63.7 which is a 63.1% increase. India’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita has increased from $80 in 1962 to $950 in 2007, almost a 12 fold difference. However, from a global perspective, it appears that more is achievable in the future. During the same period of time, South Korea increased its life expectancy and per capita income from 55.2 years and $ 110 respectively to 79 years and $19,730.

I recommend playing around with the indicators and creating a chart that resonates most with you. Colleagues from Private Sector Development blog and the East Asia & Pacific blog also pointed out a useful video tutorial that accompanies the chart to take advantage of all the tools available on the visualizer.


Joe Qian

External Affairs Officer

Join the Conversation

Joe Qian
October 29, 2009

A very valid point Tim, though we should keep in mind that the tool was only released last week. I'm sure it can be easily updated with increased functionality by the designers. Having feedback and maintaining a dialogue is important to this process. Thanks!


Tim Kelly
October 29, 2009

Its a great tool, but if you can't save the simulations, or download them for use on a website or it a presentation, then its practical usefulness is limited