Economic research is proving it's not a small world, after all, just a well-connected one.
The European Commission and the World Bank last year produced a stunning series of maps that reveal the extraordinary scale and reach of global transportation infrastructure. The map below shows travel time to major cities, indicated by brightness. Those living in the brightest areas — more than half the world’s population — are less an hour away from a major city, defined as a city of more than 50,000 people in 2000.
The map, prepared by the EC’s Joint Research Centre and available with a key here, is a measure of “accessibility” not just to cities but economic activity and opportunity. “Cheap flights, large scale commercial shipping and expanding road networks all mean that we are better connected to everywhere else than ever before,” the JRC said. “Accessibility — whether it is to markets, schools, hospitals or water — is a precondition for the satisfaction of almost any economic need.” And infrastructure, as the maps indicate, is a precondition for accessibility, and economic prosperity.
Road, rail, airline and river networks were incorporated in the model used to design the map, as was terrain and population density. The blue lines crossing oceans represent commercial shipping lanes.