The UN has an amazing repository of data hosted at and back in 2009 we set up quickly built system to turn the zip-file archives of data into a simple REST API hosted on Google App Engine (the Unofficial UNData API). Over time unfortunately the API code degraded and we weren’t able to support it through 2012 – however we continued to get requests for access. So now, thanks to Kristine on our team , the API is coming back and you can check out the new limited beta here:


The new API now has the whole of the World Health Organization data set uploaded and we’re open to suggestions as to what goes up next and how to tweak the API – We aim to add them all over time.

The API is an unofficial API since it is not endorsed by the UN in any way – for official access direct to the data at source we encourage you to visit itself. Our aim with the API is just to try to make the data available in a different form that is more useful for application development.

We’ll also be adding the API Specification to the API Commons very shortly and open sourcing the API code itself.

Happy Hacking!

  • All data drops and APIs provided by the government organizations (or NGOs) have one problem – data quality. And if data is incomplete, stale or inaccurate, it is useless and sometimes even harmful. Every developer/researcher using such data starts anew, cleaning and enhancing the data. And all those efforts provide no benefits to others. We participated in a dozen of such projects, with city, state, federal and non-profit data. I believe the solution is to open the data for anyone to edit, conceptually like Wikipedia, but going one step further, giving equal access to both people and apps.

    I know that it immediately raises a ton of concerns, but if the system is put in place to track all modifications, and all modifications are based on a reputation system, a-la, then it will be a win win for everyone. We have created such a system and pitched it to the NYC government. Unfortunately they were still so excited that they provided so much of “their” data to the public, that they could not see that all previous data sharing efforts made no real impact. Here is the slide deck that we presented to them

    We created a set of concept apps for different branches of the NYC city government that illustrate how this Mutual Data model might work. You can see some of those apps on

    In the last year we have evolved the model into an open source platform and evolved the idea of shared/mutual data into a shared data graph that enables apps to form an appnet. See readme on our Github repository for more info. If you are interested I can share the research we have done and show the tech we created to truly give data with the public, community and app developers with a high aim of making a real impact on people’s lives.

  • Maybe we could design a proper data model for it, and expose that database via SlashDB? That way one can easily add APIs, containing derived data etc.