Big Open Public Official Data – What’s next?

Big Data joined Open Data in last year’s discussions.What’s behind this new buzz word? What’s the impact on traditional official statistics?

‘…. there are the open data and big data communities who have emerged over the last 5 years. Through them, we’ve seen a huge increase in the use of public data, and more importantly, potential opportunities to use new data sources and techniques – that are often faster and cheaper – to supplement, or even replace some of the work of official statistics.
Can this really be done? Can we apply the same statistical rigour to big data sources and techniques to help meet the goals of official statistics’ ->

These questions get an answer at

World Bank’s  Big Data and Official Statistics Event’

on December 19th.

Big Data Event


Paul Cheung will talk about “Big Data, Official Statistics and
Social Science Research: Emerging Data Challenges” offering an overview of . Robert Groves will respond to Paul’s presentation, sharing his thinking and experiences informed by his recent work at the US Census bureau.

And the winners are …

The winners of World Bank’s competition ‘Apps for Development’ have been announced today. See the complete list with 15 winners here.

First prize winnner is:

Second prize winner and my favourite:

An interesting interactive approach to data presentation via a quiz is the third prize winner:

How valuable is a virtual statistical system?

A new website developed by the World Bank and partners offers a virtual look at the complexities of statistical systems. The Virtual Statistical System (VSS) ( aims to “provide well structured access to relevant statistical information for developing countries and other interested parties“.

The VSS presents detailed information by theme and activity as well as e-learning opportunities. Users are encouraged to register and contribute via wikis and discussion groups.

Take a look at this new resource and share your views. Is this a valuable tool? How do you think it should be maintained and improved?


World Bank e-Atlas

The World Bank just launched the Atlas of Global Development in two electronic  flavours.

1) The Atlas of Global Development as an eBook, based on issuu (print is also available)

‘The e-Atlas of Global Development: A Visual Guide to the World’s Greatest Challenges is a practical companion to the World Bank’s popular Atlas of Global Development, now in its third edition. Co-published with HarperCollins, the Atlas provides a comprehensive overview of the world and its people at the start of the 21st century.’

2) The Atlas of Global Development as an interactive atlas (one more), based on CollinsINDiCATE


Both atlases draw on the World Development Indicators database.

Apps competition

Apps (for various ecosystems like Apple’s iOS, Android and also for browsers) provide a simple and fast access to focused informations. This is true for statistical information, too, where lots of open data are available, be it in static (csv) or database format (API).

Some time ago the World Bank opened  ‘The Apps for Development Competition‘. This competion ‘aims to bring together the best ideas from both the software developer and the development practitioner communities to create innovative apps using World Bank data’. (Winners announced: April, 2011)

I picked some interesting propositions from the Application Gallery.

World Bank Widget

‘The World Bank Widget is an online widget that can be embedded on any website. The widget recognizes what country the visitor is from and then displays basic information on how the visitor’s country performs against the world average on the first seven targets of the Millennium Development Goals.’

Plugin Dashboards

Dashboards are an ideal tool for displaying, measuring, comparing and analyzing different indicators. They give an immediate and straight forward insight to the facts.’

Development Timelines

This is my favourite. ”Development Timeline is a new web application that aims to add historical context to development data.’

It’s far from perfect, a lot of textual data are still missing. But the storytelling idea is fascinating: visualized statistical developments are combined with explanations on one screen. And it’s Web 2.0, too: Everybody can add such textual explanations.

Choose a topic and some countries and you see the visualization (comparable to Google’s public data). And the activate the timeline with the explanations … .

NComVA: Enable anyone to easily create and share interactive statistics news through our recognized Publishing tools

Statistics eXplorer help you discover patterns and insight to provide the basis for better understanding and decisions with the same tools and methodologies that today are used by our customers OECD, Eurostat, World Bank and many national and regional statistics bureaus. Passing on knowledge from your analysis and storytelling through our Publisher Statistics to your website or blog using a Flash based dynamic visualization. Statistics Explorer represents a unique and elegant layout where the visualization is in focus and user interfaces reside invisible in the background. An effective combination of time-linked views can simultaneously analyze and visualize data and help you make the right decision when you need to know more about national or regional statistics.
Customizable (Open) Statistics eXplorer is the generic version of Statistics eXplorer for customizing statistics visualization applications for any regions and their related indicators. Our standard products World eXplorer (nations), Europe eXplorer (NUTS2 and NUTS3) and Sweden eXplorer (counties and municipalities) integrate data from official databases (World Bank, Eurostat, Statistics Sweden, SKL, etc.) with your own indicators and let you, for example, compare your regions of interest with others.

Eurostat and World Bank data now searchable on Google in 34 languages


Last year we launched a search feature that made it easy to find and visualise statistics and public data. Our data visualisation tools are designed to surface statistical information about a wide range of topics – from energy usage and the environment to health, education and the economy – and make complex datasets more accessible.

In the current economic environment, policymakers, academics and individuals around the world (and particularly in Europe) want to ensure that new rules and regulations are evidence-based. Interactive visualisations such as charts and maps allow raw data to be seen in context and give helpful new insights that can lead to better policies. 

The data we made available last year in English was just a first step, and today we’re happy to share that we’re making a lot more public data searchable via Google – across 34 languages and Google domains.

We’ve been working closely with Eurostat to surface some really useful and interesting data about unemployment rates, government debt, minimum wage, and broadband penetration across Europe.


‘This is the Time to Invest in Statistics’

Washington, at the World Bank, 21st of May 2010:  Beth Noveck (author of Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful, Amazon)  and Hans Rosling (Gapminder, Trendalyzer) present their activities and ideas. Fascinating.

Hans Roslings’ ‘Mindest upgrade for a multipolar World’ starts at minute 23.

Two remarkable statements of Hans Rosling:

  1. On the basis of all the well done visualisations with free and open data is the experience of the Statisticians. Listen to  Hans Rosling (minute 30.58 ff) why this is the time to invest in statistics and why it’s important to cherish the experience we have in statistics.
  2. Free data will lead to a lot of rubbish, a lot of mistakes will be done. And it’s only one way we can meet that: enabling the data producing units to have a good webpage because a good webpage is the place to check the data and it corresponds to the watermark on the banknote (listen minute 1.06.06 ff)

Mashup Competition with World Bank API

World Bank offers data as downloads or via an API.

This channel will be opened further and developers will be invited to participate at a competition and to present innovative applications.

‘As part of the World Bank’s Open Data Initiative, World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced an “Apps for Development Competition” that will challenge the developer community to create tools, applications, and mash-ups using World Bank data.’

‘What gets measured can be changed’: World Bank opens data

‘April 20, 2010—The World Bank Group said today it will offer free access to more than 2,000 financial, business, health, economic and human development statistics that had mostly been available only to paying subscribers.

The decision─part of a larger effort to increase access to information at the World Bank─means that researchers, journalists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), entrepreneurs and school children alike will be able to tap into the World Bank’s databases via a new website,

Experts say the Bank’s open data initiative has the potential to stimulate more evidence-based policymaking in developing countries by bringing more researchers and innovative analysis into the development process. The move is also likely to stimulate demand for data and increase countries’ capacity to produce it, they say.

And, for the first time, data will be available in languages other than English, with an initial 330 indicators translated into French, Spanish and Arabic.

“It’s important to make the data and knowledge of the World Bank available to everyone,” World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said. “Statistics tell the story of people in developing and emerging countries and can play an important part in helping to overcome poverty.”’

‘In opening its databases, the Bank Group is joining a growing “open data” trend; both the United States and United Kingdom are opening up government data to the public. The World Bank also recently partnered with Google to make 39 development indicators highly searchable and accessible.’ See full message.

Data presentation: (by countries, topics or indicators):

And get data (csv, pdf) and API.