2015 Data+ Editors' Choice Awards

The GDELT Project

business analytics
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This real-time index inventories the world's ‘events, emotions and narratives' every 15 minutes

The GDELT Project describes itself as "the largest, most comprehensive, and highest resolution open database of human society ever created."

"My interests lie in narrative," says Kalev Leetaru, who started the project about 18 months ago and runs the operation alone. "How do we understand the world? How do we understand what's happening across the world and the root patterns?"

According to Leetaru's bio on the website of the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, where he is a senior fellow, GDELT -- for Global Database of Events, Language and Tone -- is an index of the world's "events, emotions and narratives" that collects information in real time by monitoring broadcast, print and online news media. It translates information across dozens of languages and "identifies the planet's events, counts, quotes, people, organizations, locations, 4,500 emotions and themes, imagery, video and social posts." The results are presented in a massive global graph that is available for all to see.

GDELT Project creator Kalev Leetaru

GDELT Project creator Kalev Leetaru

Updated every 15 minutes, it's the world's largest unclassified data set, with more than 302 million records in more than 300 categories dating back to 1979.

GDELT uses numerous open-source and cloud technologies, including the Google Compute Engine, Google Cloud Storage, Google Translate and Google BigQuery.

Leetaru says people can query the database to, for example, see if there's evidence of cycles in society that could be used as forecasts of stability.

Noel Dickover, director of PeaceTech Data Networks at PeaceTech Lab, a nonprofit tied to the Institute of Peace, hopes to use GDELT data to help reduce conflict by helping people understand what influences conflicts.

"We think peacebuilders should use information just like business does," he says, "and using the GDELT data set is one way to help with this."

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