Andrew Mwenda, a journalist in Uganda, has an aggressive and unique view of financial aid that flows into Africa. Mwenda created the Ugandan newspaper The Independent after growing frustrated by government censorship of the Ugandan newspaper he had previously written for. The Independent promises readers “Uncensored News, Views & Analysis.” Mwenda is bold and aggressive.
TED holds conferences around the world that invite innovative speakers to present their ideas on a diversity of subjects. Mwenda argues in his TED talk that aid hurts African economic development. Bono attended Mwenda’s talk and he (rudely, I think) interrupted Mwenda. I have not seen a video, but I have read that Bono spent his entire TED lecture rebutting Mwenda instead of reading from his planned lecture. Mwenda’s thesis, if accurate, undermines nearly everything that Bono has devoted himself to in Africa. Andrew Rugasira, Chairman of Good Africa Coffee, wrote an interesting op-ed response in the Financial Times to the confrontation. Rugasira writes, “[T]he Bonos of this world need to listen more and display greater humility to African perspectives on African problems.”
TED introduced me to Mwenda and to another great contributor to our world: Hans Rosling. He is a professor of international health in Sweden. Rosling’s TED talks, Debunking Third World Myths and New Insights on Poverty and Life Around the World, present an empirical and large-lens view of global development. Not only does he give us wonderful insight into human economic and health developments, but he tells his story in a compelling and graphical way. The first time I watched one of his TED talks, I said to myself, “I wish that I could play with those awesome bubble time-series graphs.” Rosling granted my wish.
You can play with Rosling’s time-series graphs at his Gapminder website. Gapminder lets you play with tons of data. It allows you to manipulate the graph to present the data in any way you can imagine. Gapminder gives you access to videos of numerous talks by Rosling. The “Downloads” portion of Gapminder allows you to view pre-loaded graphical presentations. I enjoyed the Human Development Trends presentation.
Gapminder focuses on making interesting international development statistics accessible and digestible to the public. Rosling believes there is a gap between countries, within countries, and between the organizations (i.e. IMF, UN) that collect data and the public’s consumption. Gapminder tries to displays the gaps between and within countries and it tries to connect the public with important data.
Something else that is sweet about Gapminder is that Google bought their Flash graphical engine. This news means that you can upload any of your own data to the Gapminder engine and set it in motion. Google allows you to use it either as gadget on iGoogle or to add it as a widget into your Google Docs spreadsheet.