Big Data in Action

Not long ago in Official Statistics the topic ‘Big Data’ was mostly discussed in a theoretical manner.


However, now more and more real, and solid examples appear and demonstrate how Big Data work and what their outcome could be.

Some of these examples come from (Official) Statistics. These institutions use Big Data as a source and start applying a new analytical paradigm.


Example 1: Global Pulse (UN)

Global Pulse is a flagship innovation initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General on big data. Its vision is a future in which big data is harnessed safely and responsibly as a public good. Its mission is to accelerate discovery, development and scaled adoption of big data innovation for sustainable development and humanitarian action. … Big data represents a new, renewable natural resource with the potential to revolutionize sustainable development and humanitarian practice.’ –>

See some examples of using Big Data below:

  • analyse social media data for perceptions related to sanitation, in order to baseline public engagement
  • use of mobile phone data as a proxy for food security and poverty indicators
  • how risk factors (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, diet and physical activity) of non-communicable diseases (e.g., cancer, diabetes, depression) could be inferred from big data sources as social media and online internet searches


‘This paper outlines the opportunities and challenges, which have guided the United Nations Global Pulse initiative since its inception in 2009. The paper builds on some of the most recent findings in the field of data science, and findings from our own collaborative research projects. It does not aim to cover the entire spectrum of challenges nor to offer definitive answers to those it addresses, but to serve as a reference for further reflection and discussion. The rest of this document is organised as follows: section one lays out the vision that underpins Big Data for Development; section two discusses the main challenges it raises; section three discusses its application. The concluding section examines options and priorities for the future.’


Example 2: CBS

In Statistics Netherlands (CBS) Big Data is an important research topic.




Several examples were studied:

  • road sensors for traffic and transport statistics
  • mobile phone data for travel behaviour (of active phones) or tourism (new phones that register to network)
  • social media data for a sentiment analysis tracking words with their associated sentiment in Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, etc.



Example 3: Report of the Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics

In March 2015, the forty-sixth session of the UN Statistical Commission received a report about Big Data in Official Statistics:

‘The report presents the highlights of the International Conference on Big Data for Official Statistics, the outcome of the first meeting of the Global Working Group and the results of a survey on the use of big data for official statistics.’ …

‘The potential of big data sources resides in the timely — and sometimes real‑time — availability of large amounts of data, which are usually generated at minimal cost.  …. before introducing big data into official statistics …. it needs to adequately address issues pertaining to methodology, quality, technology, data access, legislation, privacy, management and finance, and provide adequate cost-benefit analyses.’

UN Statistical Commission Forty-sixth session 3-6 March 2015,
The full report (


Example 4: UNECE Statistics Wiki on Big Data in OfficialStatistics

A dedicated wiki offers an overview of the ever growing activities in the field of Official Statistics and Big Data. It’s managed by the Geneva Office of UNECE.2015-05-23_BIGData-UNECE-wiki

The wiki provides an interesting Big Data Inventory



Statistics Netherlands just published an amazing interactive visualisation of the Carbon Footprint. This footprint calculates the emissions (in terms of CO2-equivalents) connected with a personal consumption pattern compared to the average Dutch person.

Some time ago Statistics Switzerland published some information about the Ecological Footprint. This footprint provides highly aggregated, absolute figures indicating just how large human demand is compared to the regenerative capacity of nature.

And here’s the world wide view (2007):

Better decision support at iPad

Translated from Computer Sweden by Google translate:

Of Joel Åsblom

The Swedish decision support provider QlikTech has developed a version of QlikView iPad. Among the users are a Dutch customer who has supplied 150 offices with Apple’s tablet PC.

Qlikview i olika manicker.
Qlikview of various widgets.

QlikTech has recently invested heavily in developing mobile versions of the decision support tool QlikView. 

– We tailor Qlikview for iPad, iPhone and Android. One can of course also run regular QlikView AJAX client in the browser on them, “says marketing manager Jennifer Ehle QlikTech.

She says that many Swedish customers running pilots of mobile clients, mainly on the iPhone, and that interest is also great from the outside world. The latest example is the Dutch mortgage lender, the Hypotheekshop as equipped sellers of 150 offices with Apple iPad. With them will Qlikview enhance sales and improve customer service.

Among the advantages of QlikView brings out is that Ipadversionen of Qlikview has features to analyze business data directly with customers. Since the iPad has built-in GPS, you can, for example to obtain local information about the inventory data to customers within a specific geographic area.

Qlikview HD will initially be designed for the multi-touch interface that is available in Apple’s tablet PC where you can both tap, pinch and drag to select data points.

Bye-bye Browser (?)

For more and more online users the device of choice is a mobile device and for more and more of these users  ‘Apps are the Web and the Web is Apps”.

Applications (Apps)  for mobile devices can be downloaded and installed in seconds. These apps focus on certain needs and perhaps half a dozen of Apps meet the daily online demands for you and me.

With Apple’s planned App store for laptop and desktop computers  these devices join this philosophy, too.  So what about the future of Websurfing using classic browsers? And what about the future of complex Websites offering many levels of browser navigation and tons of pages delivering information?

The discussion (the fight) is under way and the users will decide.

For information suppliers like statistical agencies this issue is of huge importance.

How to ensure the mission for public information and democracy given such developments in the online world?

– with traditional websites?
– with (small) Apps (or Widgets) with specific, user-focused information portions?
– or both (for how long)?
– with integration into existing Apps or platforms where people are, like facebook or Google?

There are already today some interesting developments in statistics’ dissemination giving partial answers.

So have a look at:

CBS iPhone App (search CBS Statline in the iPhone App store)

And also some of the widgets like i.e.

Statistical yearbook, 2010: How to get an epub on your iPhone or iPod Touch – Statistics Netherlands

Publication, 16 August 2010 09:30

Statistical yearbook, 2010

statistical yearbook 2010
The Statistical yearbook is a source of many figures on nearly all aspects of Dutch society. It is an indispensable tool for anyone who wants information on a range of areas: population, health, education, unemployment, agriculture, construction and manufacturing, trade environment, and many others. This year for the first time three special chapters focus on sustainability, the economic crisis and population ageing. The format of the printed edition of this book had already been adapted so that it could be carried almost everywhere; as an e-book figures on the Netherlands are accessible everywhere. Statistics Netherlands’ free online databank contains much more statistical information on the Netherlands. To access it go to

Statistical yearbook as e-book

The Statistical yearbook is now also available as an e-book in epub format. You can download the file and read it on your iPhone, iPod Touch or any other e-reader that supports this format.

How to get an epub on your iPhone or iPod Touch

Install Stanza from the App Store on your iPhone. Stanza is a free reader for e-books and you need it to read an epub on your iPhone.
If you have version 4 of the operating system:
Tap the link to the e-book version of the Statistical yearbook.
You should see a button “open with Stanza”. Tap this button.
The book will then be downloaded and automatically placed in the library.
If this doesn’t work, for example because you do not have version 4 of the operating system:
Start Stanza
Go to the library
Tap “get books” at the bottom of the screen
Tap “downloads” at the top of the screen
Tap the + sign in the top right-hand corner
Type the url of the site of the e-book version of the Statistical yearbook
Tap “download”
The book will then be downloaded and automatically placed in the library.


Key figure: A-3
ISBN: 978-90-357-1779-4
ISNN: 0303-6448
Order this publication at your book shops or Sdu.

Statistics Netherlands offers free e-mail subscriptions too.

Banner Ads – adapted to Official Statistics

On its website headers CBS (Statistics Netherlands) has introduced changing pictures and texts, just like banner ads – but without clicks leading to products.

Living Headers
Living Headers
Living Headers
Living Headers

An interesting idea, attracting attention and delivering messages.

My problem: I nearly forgot to look at the content below ;).

Have a look at it: