Surfing with Ed on the Internet…

by Ed Swires-Hennessy, Local Government Data Unit - Wales

Ed continues his appraisals of different national Web Sites to stimulate use of the Internet, share best practice and encourage debate.

Hong Kong has changed its territorial status since my last visit in 1999 and is now a Special Administrative Region in the Republic of China. However, the region still maintains its own statistical web site (http://www.info.gov.hk/censtatd/home.html). The home page is filled with graphics, some of which are large (67kb) and will take a long time to download: even the site map descriptions are in graphic format so a simple icon and associated text take over 2kb instead of 0.02kb. The centre of the page is filled with flash graphics – which is quite distracting while seeking to find the relevant link. The background of the page has a three-dimensional bar chart – which should not be promoted on an official statistics site.

Following any of the links leads to a second menu choice – again as graphics. The News icon leads to a choice of 5 areas but not the Press Releases which is a separate icon. The first of the News items is a list of changes to the site, covering the last month and providing great detail. The publications link again covers issues in the last month: for the chargeable items links are provided to the relevant press notices; for free publications hyperlinks are given to PDF files. Revisions to methodologies covers a longer period – but is extremely useful for the advanced user, enabling better interpretation of data. (this page could be enhanced by including dates of posting of the papers as could the page on Items of Current Interest).

The link to Hong Kong statistics is quite disappointing. All of the Key Economic and Social information loads as a single page – with a bookmark list at the top. The charts are enlarged simply by clicking the inbuilt link (not obvious to the novice!). Hong Kong in Figures is a basic set of PDF files – not user friendly. Much more data is hidden within the Frequently Asked Statistics heading. Here simple navigation takes the user to a plethora of data, including census results.

The Products and Services link brings up another long book-marked page that includes on-line data sheets. Some of the navigation is inconsistent here, using black underlined text as a link. An unusual page in the About Census and Statistics Department section provides an Environmental report of the organisation where the measures not only include the physical change of product use but also work-adjusted ones – including an equivalent of 9 per cent reduction in the use of A4 paper.

From the Home page, Statistical Literacy leads to parts of the site providing materials for secondary school pupils and for the more general enquirer. One paper explains the basis of the Consumer Price Index, another how official statistics affect individuals.

The site still disappoints in terms of the provision of basic organised and accessible data and the provision of Hong Kong in Figures data in PDF files rather than HTML is very poor. Most of the English language text is provided in a serif typeface – which would be so much easier to read in a sans serif typeface.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.50 on 29 March 2004 at 09.30 hrs GMT using a 2 Mbit link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to

Ed.Swires-Hennessy@lgdu-wales.gov.uk