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November 22, 2006

The power of open access to data

This may be old news to some readers, but it was new to me, and so stunning that I felt the need to share it here.  Via David Recordon's shared items in Google Reader and a post in the ConnectID blog I discovered the TED talks and in particular this presentation by Hans Rosling (from Feb 2006 I think).  It's a fascinating talk that uses some very nice graphics to de-bunk some of the myths about developing nations.

Towards the end Hans makes the point that this kind of analysis is only really possible by unlocking UN statistical data in ways that makes it more openly available for use on the Web - data that has hitherto been locked away in closed databases with hard to use or non-existent APIs.  Hans talks a little about the need to search across this data, whereas my view is that it is the ability to re-use the data that is critical to the kind of analysis demonstrated in the presentation.  But that's a minor point.

Amazing stuff... and it makes me wonder if this kind of analysis could usefully be combined with the data that underpins OCLC's environmental scan to plot similar trends in provision of library and museum services and education.

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