Monday, January 25, 2010

Governmental data

With governmental data being pushed into the public cloud, APIs to access them are rapidly proliferating. The Guardian has set up a portal that allows users to search through the governmental data of the UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand and see how countries compare. There is also an active quest for good visualizations and the portal solicits its users to suggest visualizations.

One that caught my eye is called the-billion-dollar-gram which visualizes the relative budget size of programs and economic activity, with some interesting cross country and industry comparisons.

The ease with which this data can now be gathered by simple REST calls is making it possible to cross correlate this data with private enterprise data. The initial difficulties to overcome of course are data quality and the Guardian developers understood that. They are actively scrubbing the data with the help of their early adopters. From a statisticians or academicians point of view the data legends are missing making it difficult to properly compare these data sets so expect lots of misinformation to be generated by the early uses of these public portals. Nonetheless, we have to start somewhere and a transparent system that makes it easy to access lots of data is the best first start.