New Hans Rosling video at TED on the HIV epidemic

Hans Rosling, of GapMinder fame and earlier posts, just debuted a nice new video demonstrating the spread of HIV virulence in the world.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Rosling demonstrates how the truth behind the data is often more complex than it seems.  He uses the examples of Tanzania and Kenya, which have a dramatic variation in HIV incidence rates between the wealthy and poor (with wealthier Tanzanians remarkably more infected than the poor) and even with a country (with a single Kenyan province accounting for the vast majority of HIV infection rates).

This presentation raises a few extremely important points, with which readers of this blog will no doubt be familiar:

  • Resolution matters: Issues of data availability are endemic to development, but making policy and plans on averages is always, always, always a bad idea and invariably produces a poor understanding of reality.  This is true in spatial terms (Kenya) and social terms (Tanzania).  I would add temporal terms as well.
  • Visualisation matters: Even if you have the best data in the world, how you manage and present it makes as much, if not more, impact than the data itself.  Rosling is a master at this, a la Tufte in his earlier days.
  • Narrative matters: The impact of the data and the visuals are only as good as the narrative understanding that draws them together.

An excellent presentation as always.  I wish all development briefings were this clear.

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