Magazine article Government Finance Review

Online Research Resources for the Budget Conscious: Governments Can Make Use of Three Online Resources for General Research-Quandl, Kahn Academy, and Google Trends-At Little to No Cost

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Online Research Resources for the Budget Conscious: Governments Can Make Use of Three Online Resources for General Research-Quandl, Kahn Academy, and Google Trends-At Little to No Cost

Article excerpt

The Internet offers a number of relevant resources for general research that the public sector can use at little or no cost and without straining local technology resources. Quandl collects and distributes free and "for pay" financial and economic data sets. Khan Academy is an online educational classroom that can be easily applied in the public-sector workspace. Google Trends and the closely related Google Correlation provide insight into social patterns by marrying statistical data with online search trends.

QUANDL

Quandl is an online service that collects data from free and commercial data sources--12 million and counting, according to its website (www. quandl.com). It compiles and indexes this data, and then puts it into an easily readable format. The site's mission is to distribute data in a format that people want. Most data on the site is free, but access to commercial data is subscription-only. The site encourages users to create an account to access the free data. The site is intuitive and data can be easily downloaded onto spreadsheet or in text format, as the site has created application program interfaces that permit users to use the data with other software.

A user who is interested in viewing property tax collections, for example, simply enters property taxes in the search box to see the datasets that Quandl hosts regarding property taxes. The selection can be narrowed to free data, or to data within a country. Users can drill down from the country data to state or provincial data, if required. Graphs show the time series data and the range of dates covered, and how old the data are. (See Exhibit 1.)

KHAN ACADEMY

Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) is an online classroom formed around snippets of YouTube videos geared toward high school and collegiate audiences. The host (or "teacher") is Sal Khan, a former hedge fund analyst who created the first videos as a way to help his younger cousin. Since then, Khan Academy has grown into an online education platform with more than two million viewers. The company exists as a non-profit corporation and delivers thousands of free educational videos.

Although each video can be viewed individually on YouTube, they are best experienced through the Khan Academy website, where they are presented by subject matter and in logical order. The site also offers online quizzes to complement the videos. Khan Academy thoroughly researches video content, and the site invites corrections if users catch any errors. Since its inception, Khan Academy has received numerous endorsements from national and international organizations.

Khan Academy is effective because it delivers content in bite-sized chunks and delivers an experience that encourages the user to think through the subject content alongside the instructor, who uses conversational tutoring. And instead of presentation slides or a video of an instructor speaking, the lesson content is carefully outlined on an online blackboard. (See Exhibit 2.)

Academy subjects that public-sector users might find useful include economics, finance, and statistics. Course content covers the basics to application of theoretical concepts. The site can also be useful in providing training for finance and accounting staff, with videos on interpreting financial statements (basic concepts that can be applied to private and public sector), simple accounting, and treasury and investments. Staff can view videos in groups or alone, from any location.

GOOGLE TRENDS AND GOOGLE CORRELATE

Google Trends (www. …

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