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The Free 'Big Data' Sources Everyone Should Know

I always make the point that data is everywhere – and that a lot of it is free. Companies don’t necessarily have to build their own massive data repositories before starting with big data analytics. The moves by companies and governments to put large amounts of information into the public domain have made large volumes of data accessible to everyone.

Any company, from big blue chip corporations to the tiniest start-up can now leverage more data than ever before. Many of my clients ask me for the top data sources they could use in their big data endeavour and here’s my rundown of some of the best free big data sources available today.

Data.gov

The US Government pledged last year to make all government data available freely online. This site is the first stage and acts as a portal to all sorts of amazing information on everything from climate to crime. To check it out, click here.

US Census Bureau

A wealth of information on the lives of US citizens covering population data, geographic data and education. To check it out, click here. To check it out, click here.

European Union Open Data Portal

As the above, but based on data from European Union institutions. To check it out,click here.

Data.gov.uk

Data from the UK Government, including the British National Bibliography – metadata on all UK books and publications since 1950. To check it out, click here.

The CIA World Factbook

Information on history, population, economy, government, infrastructure and military of 267 countries. To check it out, click here.

Healthdata.gov

125 years of US healthcare data including claim-level Medicare data, epidemiology and population statistics. To check it out, click here.

NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre

Health data sets from the UK National Health Service. To check it out, click here.

Amazon Web Services public datasets

Huge resource of public data, including the 1000 Genome Project, an attempt to build the most comprehensive database of human genetic information and NASA’s database of satellite imagery of Earth. To check it out, click here.

Facebook Graph

Although much of the information on users’ Facebook profile is private, a lot isn’t – Facebook provide the Graph API as a way of querying the huge amount of information that its users are happy to share with the world (or can’t hide because they haven’t worked out how the privacy settings work). To check it out, click here.

Gapminder

Compilation of data from sources including the World Health Organization and World Bank covering economic, medical and social statistics from around the world. To check it out, click here.

Google Trends

Statistics on search volume (as a proportion of total search) for any given term, since 2004. To check it out, click here.

Google Finance

40 years’ worth of stock market data, updated in real time. To check it out, click here.

Google Books Ngrams

Search and analyze the full text of any of the millions of books digitised as part of the Google Books project. To check it out, click here.

National Climatic Data Center

Huge collection of environmental, meteorological and climate data sets from the US National Climatic Data Center. The world’s largest archive of weather data. To check it out, click here.

DBPedia

Wikipedia is comprised of millions of pieces of data, structured and unstructured on every subject under the sun. DBPedia is an ambitious project to catalogue and create a public, freely distributable database allowing anyone to analyze this data. To check it out, click here.

Topsy

Free, comprehensive social media data is hard to come by – after all their data is what generates profits for the big players (Facebook, Twitter etc) so they don’t want to give it away. However Topsy provides a searchable database of public tweets going back to 2006 as well as several tools to analyze the conversations. To check it out, click here.

Likebutton

Mines Facebook’s public data - globally and from your own network - to give an overview of what people “Like” at the moment. To check it out, click here.

New York Times

Searchable, indexed archive of news articles going back to 1851. To check it out,click here.

Freebase

A community-compiled database of structured data about people, places and things, with over 45 million entries. To check it out, click here.

Million Song Data Set

Metadata on over a million songs and pieces of music. Part of Amazon Web Services. To check it out, click here.

I hope this list is useful and you now agree with me that a lack of data is not a valid excuse for delaying any big data initiatives? As always, feel free to comment and add any other of your free big data sources to this list using the comment field below.

AboutBernard Marr is a globally recognized expert in strategy, performance management, analytics, KPIs and big data. He helps companies and executive teams manage, measure, analyze and improve performance.

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Comment by Gerry Twumasi on June 29, 2015 at 6:01pm

Incredible amount of Data....!! & freely available....thanks so much for this post, and keep up the good work.

Comment by Helder Oliveira on February 16, 2015 at 3:39am

Nice post. I didn't know those sources!

Comment by Jitin Kapila on February 13, 2015 at 9:40pm

@ Bernard

Really a great Source for "Big Data" to work on.

Great Thanks for the Post.

Comment by Big Data Queen on January 27, 2015 at 10:30am

Bernard, very informative post. One other open source tool to mention for managing big data is HPCC Systems from LexisNexis. Their open source offering provides a single platform that is easy to install, manage and code. Their built-in analytics libraries for Machine Learning and integration tools make it easy for users to analyze Big Data. Their site also has a list of available public data sources: http://hpccsystems.com/community/contributions/Public-Data-Sources

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