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India in Pictures

April 27, 2013

India excess female mortality

No, not pictures as in tourist snaps … pictures as in data visualizations.

Wife Kim sent me a link to an interesting site, Data Stories (India).  This is the blog of Avinash Celestine, a journalist with India’s The Economic Times.  The idea of Data Stories is it shows interactive visualizations of different types of Indian economic and socio-metric data.

What sort of thing is Data Stories showing?  The map below shows ownership of TV, Computer, Phone and Vehicle (either 2- or 4-wheeler).  The darker the color the higher the percentage of households who own all those things in that area:


Where I live in Pune about 18% of households have all these things.  The message here is how wealth in India is concentrated in a small number of urban centers.

These maps show worldwide per-capita income from perspective of both India (on the left) and China, on the right:


India and China are represented by flat lines in their respective graphs.  The other lines represent the relative proportion of that country or region’s per capita income to the base country at that point in time.

In 1975 USA per-capita income was about 18 times that in India, and  maybe 19 times that of China.  But notice how in the China chart the USA line starts sloping down steeply starting in around 1977?  By 2005 the USA:China ratio has dropped from 19:1 to 6:1, but in India with its more gently sloping line, the ratio has not dropped much, from 18:1 to 12:1.

What to make of these visual presentations?  I’ll leave the public policy aspects of these to the side and just say: We need more of this stuff.  Thinking I might make my own geographic visualization I did some quick Googles on the topic.  Conclusion: There’s not that much out there that can do this quickly.  Microsoft sells an add-on for Excel called MapPoint that looks quite powerful, but at $300 list for the North America edition, it’s not going to get my vote.  There’s some Flash- and/or web-based tools out there, like StatPlanet and BatchGeo, but tools like these definitely have a learning curve.  Isn’t there something easier?

<shameless-plug>My employer IBM has an answer, ManyEyes.</shameless-plug>  ManyEyes is a free system where you can create visualizations from existing data-sets, or upload and visualize data-sets of your own.  I found many India-related visualizations there, like this one:



Note to self: Government of India has many data-sets available online.  Try to find a likely one and then make a ManyEyes visualization of it.

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