We live in exciting times. For many reasons, but there’s one especially close to my heart.
There’s never been more publicly-available data than now: it seems national statistics agencies, charities, and private companies all produce more than we can possibly take in. The problem we need to solve is how we can do more than just produce data. How can we make it usable? How can we find the data and understand it? I have the answer.
I would say that, you might think. You’re right, I would. I just did. And here’s why.
I’ve been involved in some truly exhilarating things these last few months. We small bunch of nerds at DataMarket have been building a system to import hundreds of datasets a day from around the world, a system that now holds 100 million time series and contains nearly 600 million facts. That’s right, 600 million. All for you, dear reader.
Today we launched the fruits of our labours: DataMarket International.
Anyone around the world can now find the adult literacy rate in Samoa (98.7% in 2007), the number of cattle in Jamaica (430,000 in 2007), and compare the number of doctors per 1,000 people in North Korea and South Korea (3.3 to 1.6 in 2003). You can also make your own PDF reports with all this data if you want. I’ve never been so proud as I am to be a part of this.
And if you find something you like, you can put it on your own site. Embedded, vector-based graphs on your web site, for free. How nice are we? (Nerds: it’s SVG-based — or VML in Internet Explorer — no Flash to be seen.)
Show me the data
It’s amazing what you find when you’re managing 13,000 datasets. If you’ve ever wondered what war does to life expectancy, look no further. In 1970 life expectancy at birth in Cambodia was 43. Six years later — when the Vietnam War finished — it was just 32. You can see a similar horrifying dip during the Rwandan Civil War.
If you ever wondered when the Cold War finished, here’s your answer: Russian expenditure on its military went from 23% of GDP in 1989 to 5% in 1992.
And finally, the big one. Why, you might ask, did pineapple production in Costa Rica reach nearly two million tonnes in 2007, while neighbouring Panama managed only a measly 71,000 tonnes? I don’t know yet, but I hope DataMarket will help me find the answer.