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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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  • YERRSS!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by AndGodSed ( 968378 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @03:47AM (#22646956) Homepage Journal
    *does victory dance*

    I love that things like this happen. Free, open and searchable - Bill Gates must be turning in his... Oh, wait...
    • by neonmonk ( 467567 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:03AM (#22647022)
      Turning in his deckchair on his billion dollar yaught?
      Turning in his feather soft mattress on his million dollar gold plated four poster bed?
      Turning in his 1988 Porsche 959 Coupe?
      Turning in his 1999 Porsche 911 Convertible??
      Turning in his wife to the authorities???

      The suspense is killing me!!
    • I am also doing my victory dance. It's about time!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rabbit994 ( 686936 )
      I'm not really sure how he's turning in his whatever since UNData is written in ASP.Net 2 powered by Windows 2003. He's probably laughing all the way to bank though.
      • It may of been written in but whoever modified thier scrollbars to act the way they do should have thier hands removed with a dull spoon just to make sure they never do a web page ever again.
  • Hmm (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I just ran a Query. As it turns out, people DO prefer food or death. Thanks UN! *high fives*
  • 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, Interesting)

        by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:54AM (#22647400) Journal
        I don't think they are in as much agreement as you might think. The UN requires individual countries to record their own data and sets guidelines but doesn't expect a country to duplicate efforts if they are already collecting similar data.

        What this will lead to is information that is useful withing a well defined set of parameters but on the whole can't be directly compared between countries. Crime rates and infant mortality are a couple of prime examples on how reporting differences can change the entire outlook on things. So at least keep that in mind when looking at it.
      • Pretty much true, It's just a pity that I had to wait most of my life for the UN to do it instead of my own gov't (USA). FWIW now that I'm getting a tad older, I'm enjoying the health and nutrition info.
    • Re:Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by baboonlogic ( 989195 ) <anshul&baboonlogic,com> 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.
      • by pembo13 ( 770295 )
        Those emissions of China and India in 2004 at a lot relatively lower than I expected.
        • Those emissions of China and India in 2004 at a lot relatively lower than I expected.

          4 in 2004
          2 in 1994
          1 in 1981

          Lower, but roughly doubling each decade and accelerating.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sumdumass ( 711423 )
          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 lis
          • 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.

            My first response when people bring up the "standard of living" argument is to say to myself "yeah so what. Who cares? What's the point of bringing this up?" Standard-of-living is a nice statistical tool for economists, but is too general and brings up Western (financial) market biases. Since SoL is based on goods and services consumed, it's inaccuracy at measuring quality of life is seen since it is based on Gross Domestic Product; for example spending on man-made disasters and natural disasters will crea

            • Well, first, I was specific about the standard of living that revolves around the poverty line which is often defined by a percentage of the median income levels compared to the income distribution among the people (per capita). So for a comparison in this case, it is quite appropriate. The poor are much richer in the higher per capita countries. They not only seem to have more money, they also have more goods and possesions which you seem to think skews the comparisons. That fact is, that is the comparison
      • Add a graphing tool that plots statistics over time and it will also be easy to point to collapsing fisheries, diminishing harvests, etc.
      • by richlv ( 778496 )
        could you, please, tell how can one choose which data goes into rows, and which into columns ? :)
        i'd like to see other stats in a layout similar to your link, but can't grasp that one.
        • Interesting! Some of these tables [] have a "select pivot column" while others don't. Luckily the ones I first looked for turned out to be pivot-enabled!

          Anyway, if there is a select pivot column above your chosen table, you can make the data of that column be used as a field.

          I can't seem to find any pattern so far that tells us whether a particular table will be pivot-enabled or not. Anyone got that one figured out?
      • wow! looks really useful. And the facts are interesting as well. had no idea that china and india was realeasing so little (relatively)
      • by Roofus ( 15591 )
        Dude, look at the footnotes! The US figure includes American Samoa. That explains why our values are so high. Those Somoan fuckers eat, sleep and fart CO2.
      • Here are a couple of talks/demos by Hans Rosling - who I think (but I could be wrong) was the developer of gapminder. Very interesting analyses of poverty and development based on the UN databases. [] []
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by OptimusPaul ( 940627 )
      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.
  • Libaration (Score:3, Informative)

    by spatialguy ( 951355 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @03:49AM (#22646966)
    I wish that every organization and government would do this. It is a great tool for research. In the Netherlands "public" data is still regarded as property and our government charges us for this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rashdot ( 845549 )
      Translated from []

      "StatLine is the free electronic database of the CBS (Central Bureau of Statistics). You can create your own tabels and graphs. The information is free and easy to print and download."

      "StatLine is de elektronische databank van het CBS. U kunt in StatLine zelf tabellen en grafieken samenstellen.
      De informatie is gratis en gemakkelijk te printen en te downloaden."
    • by vozome ( 1077533 )
      there's an enormous amount of free stuff on CBS though. as for the rest... it makes sense that only people who need it pay for it, instead of every taxpayer. there's no such thing as a free government service.
  • 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?

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

        It depends how bad (inaccurate) the data is. For instance, I'd rather have no data on violent crime in a particular area then inaccurate data if I was deciding to buy a house there.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by fondacio ( 835785 )

        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 gove

      • However, as people like to say, even bad data is better than no data.
        Only to the extent that you know how bad it is & are able to compensate.
      • by vozome ( 1077533 )
        computing the GDP of the larger developed nations is a very large calculation which requires a lot of guessing... take for instance variables like the size of the underground economy (which is included in GDP). funny how these numbers are then treated as an absolute truth. for a large set of countries (like, all the un countries) you cannot have comparable data. even with standards like the system of national accounts which theoretically defines how you compute macro aggregates, there are always variations
      • However, as people like to say, even bad data is better than no data.
        Given no data, people will hopefully acknowledge the fact and tread cautiously. Bad data gives one false confidence and leads to disastrous outcomes.
    • Re:Maybe (Score:4, Informative)

      by kmarshallbanana ( 1192023 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:22AM (#22647092)
      Its there for anyone who cares to look, eg. []
    • by pembo13 ( 770295 )
      Fair point. Good question. But before tossing the relevance of the data away, I think one should consider that yours is a high standard to which most data collection made public may not meet -- the CIA (of the USA) publishes a lot of data on their website, but I don't think I've seen links to the documentation on how the data was collected. Still, having that information would be superb.
    • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Informative)

      by 216pi ( 461752 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:38AM (#22647130) Homepage
      If you really would have been interested in the source, you would have seen the BIG BOX below the data that says 'SOURCE' with a short description and a link ORIGINAL DATA that links to the organisation that provided the data. and after 2 minutes of browsing, I found this: [] where you can find information how the data was collected.

      stop whining, start looking. thanks.
  • He asked for this [] and it's finally here!
    • by miruku ( 642921 )
      i'm wondering how long it'll be until we see this data integrated with gapminder []. either that, or a gapminder-esq interface on the UNdata site.
  • When searching and trying to sort by a column that isn't there, you get an error message.
    In my case, while searching for greenhouse gasses in the world and sorting by -value-, i got this result:

    Invalid column name 'eValue'. at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlConnection.OnError(SqlException exception, Boolean breakConnection)
    at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlInternalConnection.OnError(SqlException exception, Boolean breakConnection)
    at System.Data.SqlClient.TdsParser.ThrowExceptionAndWarning(TdsParserStateObje

  • Drugs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Threni ( 635302 )
    So now we can see how much money it spends trying to force its futile prohibitionist American-style anti-drugs policy on the world?
  • select * from countries where cameras == 0 and wiretaps == 0 and privacy > 'NONEXISTING';

    No records found.

    Maybe, just maybe, in an alternate reality, this might have been useful.

  • Now if only they will be followed in this by the World Bank, IMF, OECD... Not to mention all those national level organisations.
  • A laudable project indeed. However everytime I look at that "UNdata" project name, I can't help but think of it as a data source for Uncyclopedia [].
    • Agreed! I assume most of the data in Un-data is from Oscar Wilde himself. I can't believe they called this "un-data". Then again - about to the NGO/IGO discussion above - this must be a govermental organzation - only an oversized committee could have the cajones to come up with a name like that.
  • All very good, but in the true spirit of the idea, anyone should be able to submit data. The site could rank data by 'authoritiveness', but in many cases it's better to have slightly questionable data than none at all (especially if it matches up with other questionable data).

    For example, in the energy usage section I might want to create metadata to see which energy type has grown the quickest etc.
  • Go to [] . I use it often to convince people about the problems we have in the UK =p
  • Attention! We did not find any results for: Iraq Nuclear Weapons. Please try the suggestions below to help refine your search. Suggestions: * Try more general keywords. * Try fewer keywords. * Make sure all words are spelled correctly. * Try different keywords.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson