Although Benjamin Disraeli had a famously low opinion
of them, statistics are an essential tool to understanding how things work, especially in the field of social development. The main problem, however, is that they can be hard to interpret and boring to read. How can we change this?
Well, StatPlanet is a great free application designed to allow users to investigate demographic, education, environment, health and socio-economic indicators from almost every corner of the earth. It makes things more interesting by presenting the stats in easy-to-interpret, color-coded maps that can be navigated by clicking and grabbing and using the mouse wheel to zoom in and out. Information can also be viewed in various alternative formats, such as simple graphs, proportional maps and bar charts.
StatPlanet provides nine different indicators for you to view and use, ranging from demographics and population to health and gender. Some of these areas break down into further sub-areas, and each one can be limited to a certain country or geographical region. Once you have found the information you are looking for, you can print, save or export it, but only in static form. There is also what StatPlanet describes as a bookmarking function (this basically allows certain categories to pop out of their list as a floating window) and tooltips, so you always know exactly what you are looking at.
StatPlanet is very easy to use, and requires only the most basic computer equipment. This means that it looks a little plain, and doesn't have any very advanced features. That said, version 2.0 is a significant improvement on its predecessor, allowing data to be exported and the interface to be changed. Either way, StatPlanet is a great resource for students and those interested in social development and, since it is free, it is an interesting tool to have at home.
If you are a social sciences student or simply interested in the way the world works, StatPlanet is the program for you.