UNdata isn’t the antithesis of data (in the way that UNcyclopedia is the antithesis of an encyclopedia).


Undata is a remarkably convenient way to access statistical data collected from the many and varied international governmental organizations that make up the United Nations.

Over 55 million database records are held on the site. A free-text search box helps you locate the data sets of interest, as does an “Explore” link. Once you locate the data you are looking for, you can refine it by applying filters, and can choose a column as a “pivot” to produce a cross-tabulation.

Best of all, you can then click “Link to this page” to create a static URL to your customized version of the data. For example, I looked up the land area of protected spaces (parks, etc) and applied a filter to restrict the results to Australia and Iraq. Choosing “Country” as the pivot column changed it to a two-dimensional table showing changes to protected spaces by country and year, allowing me to obtain this link to my data table.

If the presentation of complex data is important to you, you should visit Gapminder. Choose the Gapminder World option, and you can view five-dimensional data in a very intuitive way. Suppose you were interested at trends in carbon output on a country-by-country basis, correlated with wealth and life expectancy, and varying over time – it’s no problem. Put carbon output on one axis, wealth (GDP) on the other, make the size of each data point represent life expectancy, and hit the “Play” button for a dramatic presentation of how it changes over time. Colour coding is used to indicate countries, which can be highlighted or labelled if you like.


Does that sound like hard work? Well sit back and watch Hans Roslings use the Gapminder animated charts to take you on a dramatic video tour of world data. He presents several data sets illustrate world problems and to suggest insights into possible solutions. He’s an engaging presenter, so do watch the video until the end, where there is a most entertaining finale!

One Response to “UNdata”

  1. pafalafaga says:

    Jeebez! Where did that come from?

    I’ve worked with UN data umpteen gazillion times, but never came across that portal before. I wonder how long it’s been around?

    As for the Gapminder video, I’ve seen it before and it’s wonderful (don’t you love China creeping up on the US?). Their down-home snootiness notwithstanding, there’s an awful lot of good stuff coming out of the TED meetings.

    Thanks for the post.