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Google + Data.gov + Gapminder Visualizations

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, June 22 2009

Google.com is today highlighting some advanced ways of using their search functionality, in what's obviously a bid to compete the less-linear kids on the search playground like Wolfram Alpha and Microsoft's Bing. But what's worth noting here is that two of the neat search gizmos Google is promoting, searches for earthquakes and population numbers, don't return the sort of from-the-web results we expect from Google. Instead, here Google is actually building its results from original government data sources -- the former earthquake.usgs.gov from the U.S. Geological Survey and the latter from the U.S. Census Bureau. (Demo'd in the videos above.)

These data-driven Google results are part of a little-noticed Google Public Data project, announced in a blog post in April. (Google.com/publicdata, a URL tagged in some search results, resolves to Google.com -- for now.) What makes this particularly intriguing is what might happen with a Google interface on the 100,000 government data feeds that U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra has pledged to bring to Data.gov. An extra cherry on top: the project lead on the Google Public Data project seems to be Ola Rosling, who is the son of data master Hans Rosling, with whom (and others) Ola co-founded the Gapminder Foundation. Gapminder is know for putting together some rather breathtaking visualizations of government data, such as this recent one showing the epic changes that characterize the last 200 years of human development.

So, what's next? Potentially, it's Data.gov's structured, verified, and clean data from tens of thousands of U.S. government sources + the power of Google search + the currency and impact of Gapminder visualizations. The result: instant, trusted, and powerful displays of the true nature of the United States, available with a few clicks of a mouse to anyone with an Internet connection. Stay tuned.