Introduction to online data bases

The data available free on-line from international sources has been growing since many of the large organizations implemented a policy of making more of their data available in 2010. Until recently, the data was available mainly at the national level, however much more data is now becoming available at the sub-national level, usually for the first administrative layer below national administration. Traditionally the data was available for downloading in spreadsheet formats, but a growing proportion is now also available as "shapefiles" which can be used directly in Geographic Information System (GIS) software. More detailed GIS data in shapefile format is becoming available for all countries in OpenStreetMaps, down to the mapping of individual buildings and roads.

Links to national and sub-national data will be provided under the sector headings displayed in the left side border. In many cases the data in traditional spreadsheet format can be easily modified to be incorporated into GIS applications. The GIS(Shapefiles) section will include more general information on GIS as well as links to shapefile data of national and sub-national geographic boundaries which are normally used as the base layer in GIS applications. This page will also provide links to sites which allow users to generate shapefiles of the detailed data from OpenStreetMaps.

The "Multi-Sector" link gives access to data links for organizations like the World Bank whose databases cover multiple sectors.

It is not possible on this website to track all of the available data sources. But information on a number of key data bases will be updated regularly. The data bases selected will be of particular interest to people working in agriculture, demographics, economics, education and health.  Preference will be given to data bases which provide data at the country level and have time series data as well as to sites which provide access to shapefile data. For population data bases, at least three will be included which provide population projections to 2050 or longer. The menu on the left provides access to the lists of selected data bases by topic.

Linking Data -- While the individual files being downloaded provide important information, users often want to be able to link the data to other data or present the data in a graph or map. The raw data download often requires modification or reformatting before the links or mapping can be undertaken. The tab Using Data provides access to solutions to many of the more common formatting problems.

Software--In addition to the data links, the tab Open Source   will provide links to the most popular open source and commercial software commonly used to process and reformat the data and shapefile downloads. 

National Statistical Offices -- Data for specific countries may be available from national statistical offices. A list of links prepared by the United Nations to the websites of National Statistical Offices and other providers of statistics at the individual country level is available at and The World Trade Organization (WTO) also provides a list at .
Copyright 1998/2021 GRI    Updated 7 March 2021