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Open Data

Canada's Open Data Pilot Project

Great News Everyone! The Government of Canada has just debuted a new portal to their data at the Open Data Pilot Project. The pilot has launched with 782 general datasets (e.g. not geospatial) and over 260,000 geospatial datasets. The three agencies contributing the largest number of datasets as of launch are Department of Finance Canada (258), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (226), and Statistics Canada (120). The data gathered here is freely available to all users and comes with an apparently very broad user license.

The FAQ summarizes user rights this way: "The Licence Agreement allows the licensee to use, incorporate, grant end-user licences to modify, improve, develop and distribute the data. The licensees must, however, identify the source of the data on their derived products."

Portal users may search or browse to find datasets. Browse categories include department, subject and, interestingly, file format. Where available, the portal also links to tools created by Canadian government agencies for use with datasets included in the portal.

A search for "employment" in the general dataset section returns 163 datasets, most of them relatively recent (mid-1990s-present), but there is at least one dataset included with a significant range. The Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program (AZMP): Meteorological Data covers 1943-2004.

Hopefully the the Open Data Project will be successful and continue to expand!

World Bank Launches New Data Website Rich with Features and Newly Free Data

The World Bank has just launched a new Data website that is densely packed with newly free data and features for using the data which are appropriate to all levels of users.

Users may browse by country, topic, indicator or listing in the data catalog.  The World Bank says that access is now freely available for over 2000 indicators from 1960-present. In comparison, the most recent version of World Development Indicators, a licensed version of their data sold to academic libraries, contained just over 900 indicators.

For users in need of single facts or simple visualizations, the Data site is an attractive, easy to use tool.  For users wishing to generate time series, pages on the Data site include links to the newdataBank tool. 

dataBank contains the databases World Development Indicators & Global Development Finance, Gender Statistics, Health Nutrition and Population Statistics, Africa Development Indicators, Global Economic Monitor (GEM), and Millenium Development Goals.  It uses the same software  as the WDI Online product, so there’s no additional learning curve for institutions which have previously subscribed to WDI Online.

The Data site supports direct downloads of data for most datasets and databases. The Data site also provides access to APIs for developers who wish to create customized presentations of the World Bank’s data.

Given that many users will wish to copy and paste the simple visualizations at the Data site, it’s a shame that the visualizations can’t be copied and pasted.

However, this is a minor quibble with an otherwise very promising approach to data.  The World Bank has clearly thought about how to meet the needs of different user groups and the results show it.  In launching this site, the World Bank has also made a strong statement in support of open data - even to the extent of eliminating the revenue stream from WDI Online subscriptions.  This is a rare move in the information world and worthy of praise.

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