IEA Training Manual - Module 4 - Exercises

This exercise originates from section:

Exercise 4.3.4

GEO Data Portal

The following exercise is intended to give you practice using the GEO Data Portal. There are two themes for this exercise, Population Indicators and Making Globalization Visible. For the first part of the exercise, choose a theme and work with a partner on the exercise. For the second part, do the exercise on your own. Use the handouts provided with this activity to follow the steps.

1. Population indicators: A global view

Geodemography is one of the most commonly used themes for mapping in geography, mainly because population data are often readily available and lend themselves quite well to mapping, particularly at the global level. Mapping geodemography allows us to go beyond basic population numbers to the population indicators that give us a more complex picture of the population dynamics of a place, such as birth rate, death rate, total fertility rate, and infant mortality rate. This exercise gets you started comparing population indicators at a global scale.

Step 1. At your computer, launch your browser and go to the GEO Data Portal at

First, let’s focus on the fertility rate data. The fertility rate is a relatively useful indicator of forthcoming changes in population density for a country.

Step 2. Under “search the GEO Database,” enter the word “fertility,” and click “Search.” You should now see a set of available database options relevant to “fertility.”

Step 3. In this list, choose the top data option, fertility at the national level, by clicking on the radio button and then clicking “continue.”

Step 4. From the year selections, check the box labelled “Select All” next to the list of available years, and then click “continue.”
You should now be looking at a list of available output options for the data, as shown on the right. The GEO Data Portal offers data to view in a map, chart or table, as well as to download for use in statistical or mapping packages.
First, let’s find out what type of data we have by looking at the metadata.

Step 5. Under “Show Metadata,” click “display as...Metadata.”

Question 1: Read the “Abstract” and “Purpose” sections of the metadata. How is fertility rate defined for this data set?

Question 2: How were the data for fertility rate collected and measured?

Question 3: Why is fertility rate considered a more useful population indicator than birth rate?

Step 6. When you’re finished browsing the metadata, click the orange “go back” link on the right to return to the display options page.

Step 7. Under “Draw Map,” click on the image of the map. This will open up a separate window with a world map showing estimated fertility rate for the years 2045–50.
The fertility rate map shows a century of estimated data for each country. How are regional patterns of fertility estimated to change over this period of time?

Step 8. Explore the different estimates by clicking on the “General” tab in the red Theme box below the map, selecting another time period from the “Selected Year” drop-down menu, and clicking “update map.”

Question 4: Choose four different time periods from the drop-down menu, and analyze what you see. What regional patterns do you find for fertility rate?

Question 5: Based on these patterns, which countries or regions might you predict to have a decreasing population density?

Hint: By selecting the “Identify” tool icon to the left of the map, and then clicking the map with your cursor, you can get data for individual countries.

Step 9. Next, go back and explore the global data for Infant Mortality Rate. Click on the orange “new search” link to the right of the map. This should take you back to GEO Data Portal home page. In the box, type “infant mortality” and click “Search.”

Step 10. From “select a dataset,” choose “Infant Mortality Rate — National,” click “continue,” again choose all years of the data, and click “continue.”

Step 11.
Draw your map as in Step 7.

Question 6: Using the options in the “General” tab again, browse the estimated infant mortality data between 1950 and 2050. What regional patterns do you see?

Question 7: Reflect on what you have learned in class about infant mortality rate as a population indicator. If you could look at these two data sets, infant mortality and fertility rate, simultaneously, how would you expect them to correlate? In other words, for a country with a high fertility rate, would you expect infant mortality to be high or low? Explain your reasoning.

2. Making globalization visible

Globalization is a complex concept to grasp, much less measure or monitor. Most people agree that it is a combination of specific process-like and structural shifts in economics, culture and governance at the global level. These patterns include a shift from industrial to service economies, and from national to global markets, an increasing spread of popular culture, rising consumerism and often a widening gap between the rich and poor.

Question 1: What other kinds of economic and cultural patterns are indicators of globalization? 

Question 2:
What kinds of activities are indicative of political and cultural resistance to globalizing forces?

Based on these patterns of globalizing forces and resistance to those forces, do you think it is possible to make a “map of globalization”? What would it look like?
It is one thing to consider globalization as a series of case studies, with separate issues, indicators and effects. But, it is far more difficult to achieve an integrated awareness of globalization, a whole picture of globalization in our head. If we cannot look at it as a whole, how can we monitor it as a whole?

In this exercise, we will experiment with online mapping to see if the kinds of datasets available to us are useful for illustrating the complex idea of globalization. We will use the GEO Data Portal and try to explore its capabilities to grasp of the notion of globalization.

Step 1. Launch your browser and go to the “GEO Data Portal” at

Step 2. For the search term, type in “trade” and click “search.”

Step 3. In the resulting list, select “Trade – Percent of GDP” for the national level, and click “continue.”

Step 4. Select “1970” for the year, and click “continue.” 

Question 3: Based on what you know about regional globalization patterns, what type of data display for “Trade – Percent of GDP” do you expect to see?

Step 5. Test your hypothesis by clicking on “Draw Map” from your list of options. 

Question 4: Which countries or regions show the highest proportion of GDP in trade for 1970? Which countries show lower proportions?

Step 6. Now click the “Trend Analysis” tab in the red “Theme” box, and check the “Calculate difference” option. Choose to look at the difference between 1970 and 1980, and display the difference “in percent.” Click “update map” to see your results.

Question 5: Is GDP in trade increasing or decreasing? For which regions or countries?

Question 6: Redraw the trend analysis map for 1980 to 1999, and compare the results. Does the visual pattern fit your hypothesis from Question 3? Why or why not?

Question 7: How does the “No data” category affect the different views of the choropleth map? (A choropleth map uses shading, colouring or a symbol to show the geographical distribution of the information.) How does it affect your perception of the global balance of trade?

Question 8: Explore and evaluate the generalization, scale and projection, and data classification of this interactive map. In what ways does each factor limit your interpretation of globalization trends?

Step 7. Print a copy of the map that you made, and copy and paste it into a Word document.

Using the histogram
A histogram shows the distribution of data values for one continuous variable. Rather than showing each individual variable along a single axis, as you saw with line graphs in
Exercise 1, a histogram divides the data into data classes, and then plots the frequency of occurrences of those data classes relative to the variable as a whole.

Step 8. Click the “Table” tab above the map. This should take you to a table showing the 1970 GDP trade values by country.

Step 9. Click “Histogram” to get a pop-up window showing a histogram display of the tabular data. Print the histogram pop-up using the print options on your computer, then close the pop-up.

Step 10. Click the “redefine years” option to the right of the table, set the year to 1980, choose “Draw Map,” choose “Table” again, select “Histogram,” and print a new histogram for the 1980 data.

Step 11. Finally, repeat step 10 to make a histogram for the most recent year available. You should now have three histograms showing change in “Trade – Percent in GDP” over time.

Question 9: Compare your three histograms. How is the proportion of GDP in trade changing? Does this support the concept of globalization? Explain why you think the histograms do, or do not, reflect globalization trends.

Question 10: Do the histograms assist with your visual picture of GDP in trade? Why or why not?

Guide to GEO Data Portal – CD-ROM and e-learning:
Run the e-Learning for Sustainable Development CD-ROM, using the GEO Data Portal. For the video demonstration and exercises, see also


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