The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) is developing the freely accessible UN-data portal, http://data.un.org .
Some information out of their announcement: “This portal is designed to bring the rich data resources of the entire United Nations System to the fingertips of users around the world, by offering a single web-based access point. … [it] pools all major UN databases in a single environment. This allows the user to search multiple UN databases at once for the necessary statistical information. This service is free of charge. …UNSD has fully developed the prototype, which currently contains 13 data bases with over 55 million data points.” Actually there is running a testing phase in order to get feedbacks from users. If you are interested to get the password for this test try these e-mail adresses marxgut or statistics at un.org.
At the same time in the UK there is going on a discussion about the free access of public data. O’Reilly has joined this discussion and also Swivel. Sara Wood from Swivel reports on some experiences while trying to get freely available US Census data. And these experiences show once more thar this discussion is not only about hiding or not hiding data behind paywalls but also about how to access freely available data. Metadata (or even SemanticWeb) is the keyword, because without a valuable description of the topics (discovery metadata) you will never find the data looked for, and without a good description of the data (once found) these data cannot be interpreted correctly. Not understanding or misunderstanding data and drawing incorrect conclusions from these data is a problem just as serious as not getting data at all.
The UN-data portal is the latest initiative of public statistics to these questions.
Main features: “– Accessing different data sources through one interface, – Searching data with keywords and browsing the available series, – Refining search results through the application of filters, – Customizing tables with features such as sorting, column selection and pivoting.”