Surfing with Ed on the Internet…

by Ed Swires-Hennessy, National Assembly for Wales

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

This month I turn to Eastern Europe to review the website of the Czech statistical office. (http://www.czso.cz/). Upon entry to this site, you are presented with a backdrop of space and the tag-line "Welcome To The Universe of Information" – which, whilst not the best thought out of ideas, sums up the site well. The site is available in 4 languages! The English and Czech sites are virtual mirror images of one another – and limited information is presented in French and German. Other options are given for users include access - ASCII, ISO Latin, Macintosh or Win 1250 instead of the normal site – so practically every need is catered for.

After clicking on planet Earth and travelling to the English site, this rather bizarre space theme is dropped, the user being taken to a phenomenal amount of very useful and very well laid out data. There are links down the left hand side to a variety of sections with some linking to different sets of statistics, and other linking to data about the statistics collection and pages of links to external sites. Where pages are only available in Czech (which is very rare), it is explicitly stated. This left-hand navigation is very useful as a main way of navigating the site and provides links to a number of sections. These include details of how to contact all statistical offices, the Czech census – and other world censuses, election results, samples of the forms used to collect the data, links to other Czech government sites and other world government statistics sites. The site map is neatly presented – showing the whole site in a set of links. Bottom-of-page links are to e-mail either the webmaster, or another address on "Questions and Suggestions". It is a shame that on some pages, this left-hand side navigation has not been included. The information on the site would be easier to read if a san-serif font was used - and italics not used.

Upon entry to the site, you are presented with a page that is partially a "Czech Republic in Figures" index, and partially a "Hot Data" index giving the latest headlines of published statistics. The user can alter these as to how much of each is seen – however the title of the lower section is in the frame of the upper section and is not visible upon initial entry – something that could be easily corrected.

The lower section ("Hot Data") links to pages packed with a few screens worth of report followed by a couple of large tables. This could quite easily keep the left-hand navigation – if the tables were redesigned. On the whole this section is useful: however, no sign-posting exists to the whereabouts of releases much more than 2 months old.

The upper section, "Figures", links to a phenomenal number of tables presented, in many cases, in Excel, PDF and Quattro formats. However, no mention is made of file sizes, something that could be important for someone with a slow connection speed to the Internet. The Methodology section is blank – with no explanation given, while the second section "Aggregate Information" is packed with information. First, there’s the entire "Statistical Yearbook of the Czech Republic 2000" – containing a large number of tables covering every area of Czech statistics, plus several different types of graphs and charts – there is also a link to order the 2001 version. These are followed by "Macro-economic Analysis" and "What are the most popular names for our children" – two radically different publications. Then there are several sets of information about the districts of the Czech Republic, including one link to many maps of various colours. Further down the page, after many compendia publications, comes a section of "Press Releases" which contains Agriculture and Tourism releases – plus one GDP release and one Housing release. On the right hand side of the page, are "archives" links to earlier publications in each section. All the other sections are packed with tables on their respective subjects together with, in the prices section, a long document all about the meaning of inflation.

This is a very well organised site containing a spectacular amount of data and, whilst it is not perfect, it is certainly a site that should be an example for others.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 5 December at 12.00 hrs GMT using a high-speed link through Super JANet on a Pentium III 333MHz machine.

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to

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

Happy Christmas … and may you have lots of surfing time ………….