Development Indicators Web Quest
‘Development’ is a term that describes how well a country meets the needs of it’s people in terms of their
standard of living* and quality of life**.
The United Nations divides all nations into one of three categories: ‘developed countries’ ‘developing
countries’ and ‘least developed countries’
*Standard of living means “material wealth” or the quality and quantity of goods and services available to
people/. Mobile phones and the number of hospital beds would be an example.
**Quality of life means how happy an individual, or group of people is. It can include things such as health
and diet, and feelings such as stress or happiness. Unlike standard of living, quality of life, especially where
feelings are concerned, cannot be measured directly.
Developed countries have become very wealthy and usually depend on service industries. The standard of
living is generally high in these countries. Developing countries by contrast are relatively poor, depending on
farming and the extraction of natural resources for much of their income. Wealth is measured by gross
domestic product (GDP) per capita, in other words, the income earned in one year, divided by the
You will start the Web Quest by looking at a selection of development indicators to identify countries with the
highest and lowest figures. You should be able to work out why death rate is usually a poor way to measure
the differences between countries.
Secondly, you will examine two countries, Botswana and Thailand, to find out why it is best not to rely on a
single indicator such as GNP per capita. You should be able to explain why the Human Development Index
offers a better way of measuring development.
To appreciate the difference between standard of living and quality of life, you will compare data from the
USA and Cuba.
Step 1: What makes the ideal country in which to live?
1. What would living conditions be like in your ideal country? Make a list of factors, which could be
economic (to do with money), social (to do with people) and environmental. For example; everyone
can read and write, everyone has access to clean water etc.
2. Have a look at this list of countries ranked by Quality of Life. Which country would you most prefer to
live in? Can you explain why using the data?
Step 2: Comparing Development indicators
How can we measure differences in development? Examine a list of development indicators compiled by the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and answer the questions that follow:
GNP per capita (annual income in $US divided by the population)
Birth rate (How many babies are born per 1,000 people per year)
Death rate (How many people die per 1,000 people per year)
Life expectancy at birth (how long an average person will live)
1. Use the data to identify the countries with the highest and lowest GNP per capita.
2. Identify the countries with the highest and lowest life expectancy.
3. In which continent are the 10 countries with the highest birth rates located? Do you notice a similar
pattern with death rates?
4. Germany has a much higher death rate than India. Does this mean that India is therefore the more
developed of the two nations? How can Germany’s higher death rate be explained? Hint – think
about the relative number of old people in Germany and India. This article from the BBC might be
Step 3: The limitations of using a single measure of development: a comparison of Botswana and
1. Use the CIA Factbook’s list of countries by GNP per capita to find the figures for Botswana and
Thailand. In which country would you expect the highest standard of living?
2. Now compare the two countries in terms of life expectancy at birth. Which country has the highest
quality of life?
3. Find out how the Human Development Index (HDI) is calculated using this page. What are the three
indicators that are used?
4. According to the HDI, which of the two countries is the most developed?
5. Why is the HDI a better indicator of development than GNP per capita?
Step 4: Different perceptions of quality of life: Comparing Cuba and the USA
Cuba has a comparatively low GNP per capita (ranked number 94) in comparison to the United States
1. Compare the life expectancy and literacy rate of the two countries. What do you notice?
2. What does this tell you about Cuba’s development priorities? Is the government focussed on raising
standards of living or quality of life?
3. What is your view of Cuba’s development priorities? Do you feel that it more important for a
government to focus on raising quality of life or standard of living?
Step 5: The geography of Happiness – alternative ways to measure development
Recently, geographers have attempted to measure happiness, as an alternative to conventional
development indicators. Have a look at the BBC News article and the world happiness map based on
1. Identify one happy, one average and one unhappy country from the world happiness map
2. What are the problems with trying to map happiness for a whole country?
According to the BBC News article a recent survey found that 81% of the UK population think that the
government should focus on making people happier rather than wealthier. Do you agree with this result?
Explain your answer.