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Google releases Public Data Explorer

The tool, a Google Labs project, lets people pull data from Eurostat and other public sector sources and then create interactive graphs
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor on

Google has launched a tool that lets people delve into public sector datasets and create embeddable and linkable charts, maps and other graphics.

Google Public Data Explorer, a pilot project within Google Labs, allows people to select socio-economic data for comparison and present it in a variety of ways, the company said in a blog announcing the tool on Monday.

"This Google Labs project is all about making public sector information easier to use, understand and communicate using dynamic data visualisations. It's also about giving a taste of how open access to well-organised public data can result in new applications and insights that can be of direct benefit to citizens, businesses and policy makers," Google product manager Ola Rosling wrote in the blog.

To start with, Google will use five sources of data, including unemployment rates, consumer prices and minimum wages. Each source of data can be viewed as line graphs, bar graphs and bubble maps covering each of the countries selected. Users can see the data changing over time by moving a slider under the graph or by hitting a play icon.

The statistics are provided by Eurostat (the EU's statistical body), the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and several US public bodies. Rosling invited other data providers to come forward and discuss joining the Labs project.

The technology underlying the project was picked up in Google's acquisition of Trendalyzer, the company said.

Another aim of the project — which is in its early stages of development — is to make it easier to open up public data for people to view, understand and share it.

"Although access to PSI [public sector information] is not always easy or uniform across Europe, there is now a clear movement emerging to make publicly funded information as widely available as possible via the internet," Rosling wrote.

In the UK, world wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and others have teamed up with the government to provide Data.gov.uk, a website that makes raw public data available for reuse.

Google hopes that people will embed the visualisations they create in Google Data Explorer in their website or blog.

"We hope our experiment helps demonstrate both the public demand for more data and the potential for new applications to enlighten it," wrote Rosling.

Eurostat welcomed Google's project, though it declined to otherwise comment. However, a source close to the organisation told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that Google was acting like a Bloomberg or a Reuters in developing a feed for its data, and that Eurostat is keen to see external bodies using its information.

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