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UN Makes Its Statistical Data Free and Searchable 79

NorseWolf writes "Since its foundation, the United Nations system has been collecting statistical information from member states on a variety of topics. The information thus collected constitutes a considerable information asset of the organization. However, these statistical data are often stored in proprietary databases, each with unique dissemination and access policies. As a result, users are often unaware of the full array of statistical information that the UN system has in its data libraries. The current arrangement also means that users are required to move from one database to another to access different types of information. UNdata addresses this problem by datapooling major UN databases and those of several other international organizations into one single Internet environment. The innovative design allows a user to access a large number of UN databases either by browsing the data series or through a keyword search."
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UN Makes Its Statistical Data Free and Searchable

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  • Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @03:48AM (#22646960) Homepage

    Not to knock this applaudable achievement, but what exactly makes this solution innovative? Or has the meaning of this word simply been diluted more than I thought.

    That aside, interesting project

  • Re:Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @03:59AM (#22647002) Journal
    Innovative? Well, to get multiple departments, countries, people to agree on a single thing is amazing if not innovative. To get them to agree on a database, and data formats as well? I've not seen to much of that in the world of governments or big business. Perhaps there was some innovation going on there? It may well have been just innovation in how to politically leverage a size 10 shoe into a size 2 ass, but it does sound like they have done something different. :)
  • Re:Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by baboonlogic ( 989195 ) <(anshul) (at) (> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:02AM (#22647016) Homepage
    This kind [] of statistics that I can actually link to while making a point... That's about as innovative in my book as wikipedia was. This will forever change how geeks discuss things.
  • Maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:04AM (#22647026) Journal
    Data is worthless unless you know how it was collected.

    Without such information, you cannot ascertain the accuracy of the data & you cannot compare it to any other data sets.

    Where are the links to the source reports?

  • Drugs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:10AM (#22647050)
    So now we can see how much money it spends trying to force its futile prohibitionist American-style anti-drugs policy on the world?
  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:21AM (#22647086)
    I remember one of my professors mentioning that he was in the office of the president of some African country assisting them with "determining" the value of various financial (and other) metrics for large, unnamed NGOs like the UN.

    For most countries, statistical information is really wishful thinking. If you can't control your borders, tax your citizens effectively, or provide infrastructure, you can't collect accurate statistics. Indeed, even for developed countries statistics may be suspect, especially trade data.

    However, as people like to say, even bad data is better than no data.
  • by kmarshallbanana ( 1192023 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:29AM (#22647110)
    Now if only they will be followed in this by the World Bank, IMF, OECD... Not to mention all those national level organisations.
  • by penix1 ( 722987 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:58AM (#22647174) Homepage

    However, as people like to say, even bad data is better than no data.

    Whoever says that deserves the bad policy they get that was based on that bad data. You can never achieve 100% accuracy but it is a goal that still should be attempted. To accept otherwise is not only foolish but also dangerous. It leads to such stupidity as the US is currently experiencing with global warming and evolution. Screwing up the data bad enough gives the opposition to proper policy the ammunition to call "junk science" on that policy. So no, it isn't better to have bad data over no data.
  • by fondacio ( 835785 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:17AM (#22647476)

    large, unnamed NGOs like the UN
    Sorry to nitpick, but the UN is not an NGO. "NGO" stands for non-governmental organizations and examples of NGOs are Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, Cordaid, the International Red Cross etc., which operate independently from governments. The UN is very much a governmental organization, since it is composed of member states represented by their governments - in some circles they refer to these kinds of organizations (UN, NATO, EU, OSCE, OAS, ASEAN) as IGOs or international governmental organizations.

    However, as people like to say, even bad data is better than no data.
    As some of the previous posters have said, no data may be preferable to bad data in many cases as well. However, in the cases that you mentioned I think the bad data may also be interesting for a completely different analysis: to see how governments believe they have to manipulate their data to look as good as possible to IGOs and NGOs. When you study this, you can adjust practices, standards and supervisory mechanisms in those organisations to make it more difficult for unreliable governments to rig the system.
  • Re:Innovation? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:47AM (#22647576) Journal
    That's because China has 5 times the population as we do or more. Here is one on usage without the per capita BS. [] Something else to remember, the data stops at 2004 for some reason. A lot has been going on in 4 years. I doubt any of those numbers are close to accurate today.

    Personally, I'm not sure why the per capita really comes into play without population density.But either way, the problem is supposedly Co2 not Co2 per person. Take a look at Australia when I add it to the ops chart. [] Notice how AU is listed at 15 or so and produces less Co2 then the UK as to the previous chart. Well hell, even India is misleading. It is the lowest with 1 on the per capita chart and they produce more Co2 then the UK and AU put together.

    Now I am going to suggest something that most people want to ignore, look at the countries on the lists with a low per capita rating and think about the standard of living compared to the higher ones. And I don't mean how rich people charter choppers to goto their kids little league softball game. I mean the person at the poverty line who has a car, TV, cell phone, Air conditioning, Cable TV in some cases, compared to people living in those low emission per capita countries.
  • Re:Innovation? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by OptimusPaul ( 940627 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:15AM (#22648226)
    I have to agree, there in nothing innovative about that database. Perhaps if they had described the techniques used to "convince" the maintainers of the various databases to combine the data then maybe we'd see some innovation. But even then I'm suspecting it's nothing that many IT departments of merging companies have not already thought of, or nothing that the CIA hasn't already dreamed up. I think the right word here is incredible or perhaps unbelievable.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"