Posts Tagged ‘country data’

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.

Natural Earth Vector and Raster Data

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I haven’t been posting regularly as I’ve been swamped this semester – but now that it’s coming to an end I should be able to crank out a post or two each month.

I recently saw a message on Maps-L about a new GIS data source, Natural Earth, and just got around to taking a look at it. It’s run by a volunteer organization dedicated to providing free, integrated, public domain map layers for producing high-quality maps at small scales. They have a pretty comprehensive website that includes a blog, feature list, contributor information, and details on how to volunteer.

Natural Earth provides smooth, generalized vector and raster layers at three scales: 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m. See my screen shot of the Delmarva peninsula to see the distinctions (beige area is 110m, red line is 50m, and blue line is 10m).


Having a choice of scales with vector and raster data layers from the same source is a huge plus (many other country-level boundary files available on the web are detailed and suitable for large scale maps, but look messy when you zoom out to a smaller scale). Natural Earth also provide outlines for land and water (including legal water boundaries for all the Pacific islands), hydrographic features generalized to the different scales, ice shelves, urban areas, and several lat/long grid line layers.

For country boundaries they’ve gotten around the tangled issue of country definitions by providing different layers for different definitions, so you can choose the one that’s most appropriate – sovereign states (so, Greenland would be part of the Denmark polygon, Alaska and Puerto Rico part of the US, and French Guiana part of France), countries (Greenland separate from the Denmark polygon, Puerto Rico separate from the US, Alaska part of the US, and French Guiana part of France), and subunits (each place its own polygon). As you move down this hierarchy, places are linked back to their whole (so there are fields in the subunit file that list which country and sovereign state it’s part of).

At this point subdivisions (states / provinces) are only provided for the US and Canada. They do provide some descriptive metadata for each layer on the website, but the metadata doesn’t follow any standardized format for geographic data. The biggest missing link is unique identifiers – none of the countries have ISO or FIPS codes, so there aren’t any fields to join attribute data to for thematic mapping (except country name, which never works smoothly given the amount of variation with names).

Overall this looks like a great resource. Vector data is in shapefile format, raster data is in tiff, and everything is defined as simple WGS 84, so these files should work with almost any GIS package, ready to go.

Copyright © 2017 Gothos. All Rights Reserved.
No computers were harmed in the 0.351 seconds it took to produce this page.

Designed/Developed by Lloyd Armbrust & hot, fresh, coffee.