Here's a great talk by Hans Rosling, the maker of the Trendalyzer software (recently snapped up by Google). In it, he uses fascinating data to show how the old view of 'us' (the rich western world) and 'them' (the world's poor) has become seriously outdated in the last 30 years or so. In fact, the story of the last few decades has been one of Asia's great rise.
Towards the end of his talk Hans expands on his theme to talk about the great potential for using the world's information and data for business and charity alike. But there is of course political resistance. Governments these days often want to sell their data, rather than distribute it for free. And non-governmental organisations in the development sector, even as they call for 'aid harmonisation' and 'aid effectiveness', are often very cagey about releasing raw information which could come back to hurt them. It's a shame, because there's a whole army of people out there looking to use it to good effect.