We’ve been living in the information age for a while now, it’s no secret that today there’s a huge abundance of information available, more now than ever before. However with so much information available, how do we find meaning and relevance without getting lost in the sea of data? Google predicted recently in the New York Times that being a Statistician will be the sexy job over the next 10 years. I’m sure most people recall any academic encounters with the world of statistics without much enthusiasm, probably due to a focus on data mining, and impersonal numbers without much focus on the amazing insight that can come from this process. Hans Rosling, in a recent talk on TED makes us re-think our perceptions of how we perceive global demographics, by comparing some measures of health care, and income on a global scale. This is a great example of how applying some analytical thought to freely available data really can produce new insight.
The Open Data movement is something that has kicked off lately, and is all about pushing for the data collected by the government to become freely available. This sounds like a great idea to me, with all that public data, we should all be coming up with such innovative new ideas. But where to get this data? For those of you in New Zealand, you should check out the Open Data Catalogue, which lists a large number of data sources from various government and other official organisations. I’d recommend anyone looking to come up with the next useful mashup to take a look at the datasets there, and if any inspiration is needed, to checkout Stamen who have heaps of great ideas.