1/11/2015

Population.io: A visual exploration of demographic data

 

How long will you live for? Population.io harnesses demographic data to project how your life could play out.

Population.io was created by Wolfgang Fengler, alongside Benedikt Gross and Samir KC, with the aim of making demography accessible to people from all walks of life.

After inputting your birthday, nationality and sex, the project is able to extract individual life expectancy and other demographic milestones.

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To explore this further, the project employs a variety of interactive visualizations that allow the user to delve deeper into their demographic position in the world.

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The data and tools behind the project

Population.io's individual projections were interpolated from large-scale official demographic data produced by the United Nations and published in the World Population Prospects.

"We want to make data personal and converted aggregate data into small units (a day in the case of life expectancy). The United Nations and my partners at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have been producing “life tables” for different cohorts in all countries in the world. We have converted these data (which is typically hidden in Annexes of thick reports) into individualized projections and include a factor which models future improvements in lifestyles," explained Fengler.

For example, the annual population by age and sex in a single year was interpolated to a daily number by fitting spline function.

Once the data was converted into smaller units, the team utilized R and D3.js to build the site.

"The algorithms have been developed with R. These ideas/algorithms were then translated to python (by making heavy use of the pandas library) so that we can run everything swiftly on our backend," continued Fengler.

"All visualization elements on the site are done with d3.js. We are pretty agnostic when it comes to technology. We simply settled on d3.js, as it became a standard in the last years and we also liked the ‘atoms not molecule’ approach of the d3.js architecture."

Want to explore demography further?

Fengler and his team are currently working on new ways to probe the project's data, with three main priorities.

"First, we want to add calculations of your big milestones in life, e.g. the day when you will be exactly in the middle of the world or your country and connect this tool with a celebrity database we already compiled. Second, we plan to add “health &lifestyle” function to enhance the projections of life expectancy. Third, we will produce simulations which will allow you to find your space within your home country," he said.

Population.io's data is also available as an API, and developers can access the source code on GitHub.

Explore Population.io here.

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