Gapminder and net censorship

 

I've just had a lesson in the power of visualisation. I was playing around with the Gapminder graph of life expectancy versus income per capita, and randomly picked South Africa from the country list. Playing the animation from 1980 - 2004, life expectancy rises steadily until about 1994, after which it drops like a stone! Dramatic stuff - all sorts of questions and vaguely remembered news reports flooded in to my mind - "what the hell is going on over there?!".

 I think it would be really great to make such powerful visualisations about internet censorship, and an ideal opportunity would be to feed the data from the OpenNet Initiative's forthcoming global survey of internet censorship. My main interest is to drive awareness and campaigning against the growing encroachment of online filtering, and the risk that the internet will fracture in to an archipeligo of censored national enclosures. However, there's a direct link to the primary concerns of Gapminder's founder Hans Rosling i.e. global health and human development. Many organisations now see unrestricted access to the internet as a key aspect of development. (This really came home to me at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis where the best workshops on internet censorship & freedom of expression were organised by HiVOS). The irony in using Gapminder to campaign against net censorhsip is that the version of the tool i was playing with is the live online Gapminder provided by Google, who's other claim to fame at the moment is their participation in the Chinese authorities' censorship of the internet. The live version I'd like to see would feature net censorship by country, with a drop-down for corporate involvement, and maybe an overlay of number of arrested cyberdissidents. I wonder if Google would host it?

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p.s. you can watch a webcast of Hans Rosling's Gapminder talk at the TED p.p.s I hunted through the Gapminder site for the download of their core software, Trendalyzer, but i could only find the pre-prepared Flash presentations. If anyone has any experience of using Trendalyzer, leave a comment or contact me.