Posts Tagged ‘countries’

Country Centroids File Updated

Monday, February 13th, 2012

A brief note – I’ve updated and replaced the country centroids file that I was previously hosting. I extracted data with geographic centroids in latitude and longitude for each country and dependency in the world using extracts from the NGA’s GNS and the USGS GNIS. Data is current as of Feb 2012, with long and short names for countries and two letter alpha FIPS and ISO codes for identification and attribute linking. Available for download on the Resources page.

Freely Available World Bank Country Data

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

This actually happend a little while ago, but for various reasons I haven’t been able to keep up with posting…

Our library had been subscribing to the WDI (World Development Indicators) database from the World Bank, but we were recently informed that the product was being discontinued and all of the data from the WDI and a number of other World Bank datasets would now be freely available from their data portal at

You can download an indicator for all countries by browsing through a list of all 300, or drill down by broad topics. Select an indicator and you can view a table with the most recent data, or a graduated circle map. If you download a table you can choose between an Excel or XML format. If you download the Excel format you get all years for all countries for that particular indicator from 1960 to present; but for many indicators you end up with a lot of null values up until this decade. If you go the XML route, the nulls are omitted and only years with data are provided. Unfortunately, in neither case do you get any unique identifiers like an ISO code.

Fortunately, power users can opt to download an entire data set, such as all of the WDI Indicators, in one file via their data catalog. In this case you have the option for Excel (xlsx only) or CSV, and the records I looked at DID contain ISO codes for each country (3 letter alpha). It looks like they’re also letting people tap into an API, so you can build web applications that harness the data directly from their repository.

In addition to browsing through indicators, you also have the ability to pull up a profile for a particular country to view several indicators for one particular place. They have a snazzy dashboard with stats, charts, and a reference map.

Searching for Foreign Census Data

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

I’ve been looking for census data for various countries, and have visited the usual suspects that aggregate this data – the CIA World Factbook and the United Nations Population Information Network. Other supra-national orgs like the IMF and World Bank also create and compile this info. These are fine sources, particularly if your goal is to look at basic data for several (or all) countries. But if you are studying or writing about one country in particular, it may seem odd to cite the UN, and even odder to cite the CIA. It would be better to go right to the source – the chief statistical agency in that particular country. In all likelihood, this agency would also have more in-depth stats than the aggregators.

But – where is the source? Rather than be left to the mercy of google, where you’ll uncover the obvious suspects and lots of commercial sites and joe-schmoes who republished some data from last decade, visit the US Census Bureau’s list of foreign statistical agencies, which will lead you right to the source.

Assuming you can find some pages with some data (census data isn’t public domain in every country and isn’t necessarily online for free, or at all, in which case you may need to go with some of the aggregate sources), the next obstacle will be overcoming the language barrier. Many countries will publish pages in several languages, including English. Some may publish only limited info in English, or no info in English at all. If you don’t read the lingua franca, you can try a translating tool like Babblefish or the Google Language Tool to translate the page for you. The translation may not be perfect, but it should be good enough where you can figure out what you need (although if the language you are translating doesn’t use the Roman alphabet and Arabic numerals – i.e. 1,2,3 etc, you may have some trouble).

The toughest obstacle to overcome may be the organizational barrier. If you are familiar with the US Census Bureau, you’ll know that it’s a large and complex organization with many subdivisions and datasets (decennial census, acs, population estimates, etc). And despite it’s enormity, it doesn’t collect all socio-economic data (religious affiliation) and may not be the best source for all data (current labor force stats). Well – other countries are just as complicated, so be wary!

Another strategy would be to visit Wikipedia – not to cite as a source, but to find what sources they use. You’ll find many country specific articles that cite the CIA Factbook or the UN, but some of the more detailed and well written ones do cite reports written by the statistical agencies for the country in question, often with a link to the page or report. If you have access to some library databases, like Gale Virtual Reference, they will (usually) cite sound references as well. Happy hunting!

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