MEDIA STATEMENT 09 February 2017
Statistician-General of South Africa, Dr Pali Lehohla, pays tribute to the late Professor Hans Rosling – a pioneer in unveiling the beauty of statistics
Professor Rosling, or Hans as we fondly referred to him, used to regularly remind me of the invitation I extended to him in 2007. He distinctly remembered the discussion we held with Statistics South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial office staff and the issues that they raised frankly during the session – some of which being the difficulty of access to data.
Hans planted the seed in us to excel in ensuring that information becomes easily accessible and Stats SA applied the tools he developed in presenting the results of Census 2011. I recall reaching out to him for assistance, but instead he said “Pali I am busy but I will ask Daniel Lapidus to come and help you”. I was skeptical about his offer to send a substitute, but he assured me and indeed I was not disappointed.
In 2015 he sent Ola Rosling, his son and co-founder of GapMinder Foundation to address the second ISIbalo lecture series that Stats SA delivers annually as he was engrossed in the global fight against Ebola. He spent time in Sierra Leone and Liberia organising the evidence and assisted tremendously in solving the problem and directing intervention from a fact based process.
In 2016 March on my way to the Statistics Commission I again invited him and this time around disclosed to me that he had two months to live as he was battling a rare form of cancer that he eventually succumbed to. “Pali we are fact based and I am now preparing to die and I am writing and recording what should help the world” said professor Rosling in response to my attempt to console him.
I am pleased that we were able to meet him in Stockholm as we prepared for the release of Community Survey 2016 and he could be with us via Skype twenty five days ago. I had the honour to ask Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Honourable Jeff Radebe to confer to him the Statistician-General ISIbalo Award on that occasion.
The post-truth world of snake oils, smoke and mirrors is not part of Han’s world. His is one that is fact-based. In his last public address through Skype at the UN World Data Forum he again related his encounter with the Stats SA KwaZulu-Natal provincial office and emphasised the crucial role of statistics offices in getting high quality fact-based information.
Professor Rosling’s contribution to the world of data and analytics remains remarkably outstanding and his is a legacy that positions the world to embrace the Age of Data Revolution. Our heartfelt condolences go to the Rosling family and the members of the Gapminder Foundation.
Issued by Dr Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General of South Africa and Head of Statistics South Africa