Google snaps up Karolinska stats tool

It began as a teaching aid in a lecture at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute . Now internet giant Google has bought the rights to the Swedish statistics tool Trendalyzer.

Seven years ago, professor Hans Rosling was lecturing his students when it struck him that statistics were an underexploited resource, often presented in an incomprehensible fashion. To solve the problem he developed – along with his son – a new kind of software.

The result was every software developer’s dream: on Friday, Google bought Trendalyzer for an undisclosed sum.

But however much Google paid for the software, which presents data in an easily-accessible, graphic format, the deal has not made Rosling Sweden’s latest IT billionaire.

Gapminder, the organisation set up to develop the product, is a non-profit foundation that has been largely funded by public grants.

According to its constitution, its objective is “to promote sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by increased use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels”.

“It is a charity that has sold the programme so I haven’t had any money,” said Hans Rosling.

“It’s not an operating business that was sold, just the software and a web site. Although I would gladly accept that kind of money,” he added, perhaps thinking of fellow Swede Niklas Zennström , who sold Skype to eBay for 4.1 billion dollars.

But the potential of the Trendalyzer software is seen as being enormous. According to Rosling, public organisations around the world invest 20 billion dollars a year producing different kinds of statistics.

Until now, nobody has thought of collecting all the information in the same place. That should be possible with Trendalyzer, which will be able to present that quantity of data in a clear way as well as giving the user the ability to compare many different kinds of information.