The Rise of the South

We are looking at a future with fewer poor people, a growing middle class, and more children getting an education, all of which is due to the continued rise of “the south” – this according to the latest Human Development Report published by UNDP.

As you can see from the two charts below, there are already more internet users in the south than the north, and by 2030 we are looking at a projected global middle class of some 4.9 billion people – more than 2.5 times as many as we see today. That’s pretty amazing!

Global Internet Users

Global Internet Users

Growing Middle Class

Global Growth of Middle Class

The World is Getting More Free


Green countries are free, yellow partly free, purple not free.

Here’s the key headlines I picked up from a recent presentation at UI by David Kramer on the World Freedom Report. You can follow Freedom House on twitter  @FreedomHouseDC

  • We are seeing the longest period of decline in freedom (now running at 7 years) in decades, with 16 countries improving but 27 declining – obviously not so positive news!
  • There are 90 countries currently ranked as free (46%), and these account for 43% of the world’s population
  • There are 58 countries ranked as partly free (30%), which account for 23% of the population
  • There are 47 countries ranked as not free (24%), which account for 34% of the population (but note that China alone accounts for over half of the population in this category)
  • Of the 47 countries ranked as not free, 9 countries are ranked as the “worst of the worst” (this now includes Mali)
  • While we have seen a global “blossoming” of press freedom between 1980 and 2000, there is now real concern over current trends which show significant backsliding (the current trend is negative). As an interesting aside: Turkey now has the largest number of journalists in jail in the world; within the EU there are growing concerns over Greece and Hungary; and Cuba was noted as a particularly poor example of press freedom in the Americas
  • Finally we also need to look at the bigger, more optimistic picture too: in my lifetime (i.e. between 1972 and 2012) the number of countries ranked as free has doubled, the number of partly free has also risen dramatically (up from 38 to 58), and  the number of not free is dropping steadily (down from 69 to 47), and this despite the fact that there are now 38 more countries to take account of since 1972!

Massive drop in deaths from natural disasters

Natural Disaster Summary Chart 1900 – 2011

deaths from natural disasters

Here’s a really interesting bit of data via @HansRosling about the amazing decline in deaths resulting from natural disasters. Even though the number of disasters reported and the number of people affected has climbed substantially (no surprise given the better telecommunications and technology we have access to these days, and the global growth in population), the number of deaths from natural disasters has dropped by around 90% since 1920. As Matt Ridley has argued in The Rational Optimist, this may be explained as much by preparedness and relative wealth of the affected region than anything else: in 2007 category five hurricane Dean hit the well prepared (and relatively wealthy) Yucatán Peninsula and killed around 45 people; a year later the category four cyclone Nargis hit the poorly prepared and impoverished Burma killing around 138,000 people.

Source –

Steven Pinker on why life is no longer nasty, brutish and short


The Peace Dividend

A great Ted Talk here by Steven Pinker on the ongoing decline in violence. Not only does he present the hard data to show that the decline of violence is a fact, but he also gives several plausible explanations as to why the decline is happening.

Two points in particular that stand out for me. First, as technology and economic efficiency make life longer and more pleasant, we are clearly putting a higher value on life in general. Second, Peter Singer’s thesis that our “circle of empathy” has evolved well beyond encompassing only family and friends (in part because technology is making it ever easier to “trade places” with other people’s feelings and emotions). Powerful stuff and well worth your time. Hat tip to Oliver Sycamore for this one.

Global cities of the future – are you paying attention?


Global cities of the future: An interactive map

Check out this super cool interactive map from Mckinsey Quarterly showing expected global urban growth. From their site, “Rapid urbanization is propelling growth across emerging markets and shifting the world’s economic balance toward the east and south. By 2025, it will create a “consumer class” with more than four billion people, up from a billion in 1990 (my emphasis). Nearly half will live in the emerging world’s cities, which are set to inject almost $25 trillion into the global economy”.


Can we dump the term “developing world” as soon as 2030?


Hans Rosling is one of the world’s greatest living presenters. Couple that with some jaw-dropping use of technology, and you’ve got the makings of a brilliant video, which is precisely what this is. The fact that it is only 2.51 long AND also busts a few myths you might be holding about Africa in the process makes it my number one must-see video this week.

Question: I like the way he breaks down the stats for Ethiopia. This set me thinking. If you broke down the stats for, say, the USA or UK, would we find some states or counties that were essentially in a “developing” stage? Would be interesting to find out…