Hans Rosling, a physician and professor of global health from Sweden recently gave a talk at the US State Dept. entitled Let My Dataset change your midset illustrated by the free software he and his son developed called Gapminder. He explains how the data (which he thanks the US for compiling and releasing so generously) shows a convergence around the world (ala Tom Friedman's Flat Earth) and warns us that some problems are more complex than a simple static chart or graph will reveal. Only by looking at (good) data with an analysis tool like this can you begin to see what is really happening. For instance, he shows that the HIV crisis in Africa isn't really an "African" problem, as there are many very poor countries in Africa that have done a good job of reducing the problem, where other richer African countries have done a terrible job. Solutions to global health problems need to be tailored to the individual case.
After watching his talk you might like to have a go at using the Gapminder software yourself to investigate the data at Gapminder World. Gapminder was acquired by Google and re-named Trendalyzer in 2006. As far as I understand it, the Motion Chart portion of the software can be used for free either through the Google API or via the Google Docs spreadsheet program.