An “African Swede” is Gone: Remembering Hans Rosling

I don’t really have idols. I have never asked anyone for an autograph. I don’t like the idea of following celebrities. But I do have a few people I truly admire and of them only a few have anything at all in common with me. However some special people, Swedes with a strong bond to Africa, inspire me in a unique way. Professor Hans Rosling was one of them, first mentioned on my blog in 2008 (writer Henning Mankell another). He very sadly passed away yesterday, on my birthday, taken violently by cancer.

Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Gapminder. 

Through my sadness, I am thankful for his life and work, and I will remember Hans Rosling for:

  1. Making statistics sexy. His multidimensional videos on statistics are encouraging and educative and often tell the bigger picture story of that after all, the world is getting healthier, safer and fairer. See the video above for a great example. See link below for how to use Gapminder data in teaching.
  2. Pushing the World Bank, UN and other organisations to make their collected data a public good – free and available for all. This move is aligned with the Open Society and Access to Knowledge (A2K)  movements which seeks to openly share information to make the world a better place.
  3. Balancing being a successful academic with connecting to people. I recommend this recent article about Rosling and his work for a critical assessment of this impossible balance.
  4. Creating Dollar Street – an amazing resource to show us what economic conditions around the world really look like.
  5. Taking an active role in the Ebola crisis and a clear stand in the aftermath of the Syrian refugee crisis (see video below). What is the purpose of being wise if you never speak up?

I’d like to call Rosling and “African Swede”, because I think he had African qualities – he understood storytelling and embodied Ubuntu – “I am because you are”. 

More than once, I have been in conversations about bringing Hans Rosling to Ghana. Maybe Gapmider’s co-founders Ola and Anna will come instead and discuss Gapminder and the advantages with a fact based outlook?

So I seem to like educators and writers. Who do you admire?

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