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Investigating development geography through data visualisations
This posting is about two excellent data visualisation sites that can be used to identify the stage of development of a country and/or region: WorldMapper and Gapminder. Both of these sites have been around for over 6 years, but they continue to be amazing free and user friendly tools for you to study development geography.
Firstly let's look at the concept of development and the branch of geography called development geography.
Development geography is a branch of geography with reference to the standard of living and quality of life of its human inhabitants. In development geography, geographers study spatial patterns in development. They try to identify development status of a country/region by looking at economic, political and social factors.
Development indicators are numerical data on the characteristics of a place which can be associated with development of a country. They include:
- Economic indicators include GNP (Gross National Product) per capita, unemployment rates, energy consumption and percentage of GNP in primary industries. Of these, GNP/per capita statistics are the most used as they measure the value of all the goods and services produced in a country, excluding those produced by foreign companies, hence measuring the economic and industrial development of the country. GDP per capita is also a useful data source.
- Social indications include access to clean water and sanitation (which indicate the level of infrastructure developed in the country) and adult literacy rate, measuring the resources the government has to meet the needs of the people. Indicators such cars/TV/radios per thousand may also be use as social indicators.
- Demographic indicators include birth rate, death rate, life expectancy, natural increase and fertility rate and age structure. Health indicators include nutrition (calories per day, calories from protein, percentage of population with malnutrition), infant mortality and population per doctor (indicate the availability of healthcare and sanitation facilities in a country). The GDI (Gender-related Development Index) measures gender equality in a country in terms of life expectancy, literacy rates, school attendance and income
- Environmental indicators include how much a country does for the environment. A more developed and wealthier country has the luxury to spend some of it's money on protecting the environment.
With development geography there are a range of classifications of development. The most popular are the classifications of:
- Undeveloped/Underdeveloped/developing/less developed/developed
- Rich and poor countries
- The haves and have nots
- High to low human development (based on the HPI)
- 1st/2nd and 3rd world (rather unpopular classification today)
- The North/South divide (see below)
No matter what the classification, when we view the indicators it seems that countries group into various development categories in a consistent way.
Now for the two sites:
Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to a chosen criteria. Criteria relevant to development include: demography, income, wealth, poverty, health, education, death exports etc.
Gapminder is a great visualisation over time which plots on a dynamic graph a range of criteria (many being development indicators). There is also an excellent section for teachers with ideas on using the site.
*Check out this data on the countries today