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.

A personal call this week was about the country of Romania – and so I chose to investigate progress there with statistics on the web. The previous review of Romania in January 2000 was to a very different site. The new site (http://www.insse.ro/indexe.htm ) is much crisper with a clean and uncluttered home page: at the time of visit, just six press notices and three key areas in the main body with a left-hand navigation to the rest of the site.

I started by looking at the first Press Release shown, Trends in the Evolution of Economic Activity (31.01.04), where the first table does not contain figures but directional arrows! The advantage to the user was that the PDF file opened in the right-hand side of the page – retaining the main navigation of the site. The second press notice call returned an HTTP 404 error – not found. The third, on the Consumer Price Index, has just been rebased to December 2003 – but the index for the first month shown, October 1990, is 230056.2: which implies that it is much cheaper to live in Romania now.

My second search is for the population figure. In the last review I sought the figure from the Yearbook – which all had to be downloaded as a PDF file before the first table could be accessed. Now the chapters of the book are in ZIPed PDF files. The population chapter is 1.22 Mb – and the server has a slow link because the file promised to take over 10 minutes at 2 Kb per second! I gave up. I followed the left-hand link to Statistical Indicators and discovered these were conveniently split into economic and social indicators. Following Social Indicators for 2002, I soon found population: the whole page took several minutes to load as the inclusion of thumbnail charts (size up to 36 Kb each) really slowed delivery. I followed the link to the population chart – and was presented with both a chart and a summary table (where the numbers had been centred in the columns!). The only navigation on the chart page was to the home page – unlike the presentation of the press notice.

A small dip into the Census presentation opened three new windows before I got any data – in Romanian.

The section on methodology is quite detailed – but the layperson would have some difficulties: in the section on prices, the reader is confronted with Laspeyres, geometric means and ‘junction coefficients’.  What’s New contains a list of publications and I am not clear why this is different from yearly publications part of the Catalogue – which is very poorly presented: the appear on one bookmarked page that again took minutes to load because of the many large images (whose size needs drastically reducing). From this page I returned to the home page , via the catalogue page and the ‘home’ symbol, to find myself in a new window!

Overall the site is much improved since the last visit but not too user-friendly: it must be very slow for those on a dial-up link and even I gave up on a relatively small download. Some attention needs to be given to data presentation and navigation in some parts of the site.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.50 on 6 February 2004 at 08.30 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