30/8/2011

Google Public Data Explorer

 

Released in March 2010, Google’s Public Data Explorer makes public data and statistics easier to understand and share.

The tool is based on the Trendalyzer software specialised in representing data over time, which was developed by the Gapminder Foundation and acquired by Google in 2007.

It allows users to create comprehensible, easy-to-use, animated and interactive charts and visualisations on topics ranging from development to unemployment and income.

No preliminary technical expertise is needed to explore the datasets already available in the Dataset Directory, which lists non-profit organisations and public agencies such as the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), or the European statistics agency Eurostat.

Users can use the data provided to create visualisations fitting their own needs, by selecting countries to be compared, switching variables and adjusting the scales.

Since 16 February 2011, individual users and organisations can upload their own datasets, explore them visually with the provided tools and embed the visualised data in their websites. Datasets first need to be converted into the Dataset Publishing Language (DSPL) format: this is done by adding an XML metadata file describing the CSV data file. The operation requires some degree of technical expertise.

This chart correlates life expectancy and number of children per woman for most economies of the world. The bubble sizes show population, and the colors represent different regions of the world. You can also click on the play button to see data change over time. The Explore data link in the bottom right corner brings you to the explore tool that lets you play with the data by highlighting regions, switching variables, or even adjusting the scale. (Source: Google)

Data which previously had to be downloaded separately from each specific institution or organisation are now quickly accessible from one site, listing the largest databanks in the world.

The directory is in development and the list of datasets is growing. The addition of datasets on issues such as press freedom (Freedom House and Transparency International) could be of interest to journalists.

While more comprehensive public data registries already exist, the Google Public Data Explorer appears particularly promising in terms of deeply exploring and understanding large data visually.

Exploring public data can help news organisations, particularly those practising data journalism, to generate news stories. The addition of dynamic data visualisations can also make stories more compelling. It is worth noting here that embedded charts and maps continue to be automatically updated.

Visit the Google Public Data Explorer support page for more information.

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