Data Reveals Opportunities in Investment, Historical Lessons Learned

Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling and BBC’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, The Joy of Stats

By: Tim Hill, GAIN

Technological innovations continue to become more accessible and usable to people around the world. Increasingly so, open data is a vital contributor to this process and helps to maximize awareness of our impact and dependence on the environment and its services. In practice, it can help us identify where vulnerable communities are most exposed to climatic events and resource scarcity and how investment can help people build resilience.

GAIN Index zoomOne such example of a tool that uses data to save lives and improve livelihoods is the Global Adaptation Institute’s GAIN Index. It measures a country’s vulnerability to global challenges such as population shifts, climate change, urbanization, as well as its population’s readiness to absorb investments and make the changes needed to adapt. 

Assessing data can identify patterns that predict latent and existing challenges, and help us understand the scenarios present to assist decision makers in the future, said GAIN’s Dr. Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño, Director of Science & Technology. 

“Understanding what is happening is a key ingredient to make the right decisions. On the other hand, knowing what we don’t know is also important, so we can work to fill those gaps,” Dr. Sánchez-Andrade Nuño said. 

Hans Rosling, from whom Sanchez takes much inspiration, is a vanguard in using and communicating data. A Swedish statistician and medical doctor by training, Rosling in collaboration with the BBC, recently produced 200 Countries, 200 Years, The Joy of Stats. This video provides viewers with an easy-to-follow outlook on how human life spans correlate with wealth during the past 200 years throughout 200 countries. This data is displayed on a now-iconic computer-generated scatter plot graph that Rosling helps to animate. The video shows the dramatic effects from historical events on the health from world wars to the Spanish flu epidemic. View the video by clicking HERE.

Dr. Sánchez-Andrade Nuño pointed out that open data is the key to optimizing collaboration and resources

“It also ensures transparency and facilities peer review,” Dr. Sánchez-Andrade Nuño said. Having open data minimizes the barrier of access, especially with the advent of new technologies. Our Index is made entirely on open data. Any measure we use can be linked to its source, definitions, … Additionally, the GAIN Index is in itself open data, so that it can be used by anyone, either its results but also every detail and methodology.”

This approach directly affected the rapid evolution and positive reception of the Index by the private and public sectors. As more, better and updated data becomes available, the Index will be able to incorporate these additions and be more responsive to Measure what Matters.

"This is part of the beauty of open data, not only the data itself, but all the information and knowledge we can get from it," Dr. Sánchez-Andrade Nuño said.

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