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.

I am grateful this month to a retired reader – Ken Mansell – who has given me the proper reference to the Romanian Romanian Statistical Office, locally known as the Comisia Nationala pentru Statistica (CNS) at
( http://www.cns.ro/ ). I am quite surprised by the lack of ‘hits’ from search engines on the main statistical office sites (try entering ‘UK’, ‘Government’ and ‘Statistics’ in your search engine and see if you get any reference to the GSS site http://www.statistics.gov.uk : my attempt, using AltaVista, had the ONS site at number 1, UK in figures at 4 with no mention of StatBase! The top site from Yahoo was for the 1996 Northern Ireland election statistics, with the GSS not mentioned in any of the top 7).

The front page to the Romanian site has a revolving graphic and some inappropriate 3 dimensional charts – but does offer the visitor the option to view the site in English. The first page has a column of simple headings offering the majority of what any visitor would want: history, organisation, data, press releases, indicators, publications etc.

140 years of Romanian official statistics is summarised briefly identifying basic milestones and the main characters of history.

In the ‘About us’ section, the current legal and administrative basis is presented along with the addresses of the 44 county statistical offices!

So I went in search of data…. And the Statistical Yearbook is available as a one download file! I did think, seeing the chapter headings in blue, that each chapter had a linked file to view: but no and after five minutes of waiting the whole of the yearbook was downloaded – even if I only wanted one figure or one table! For those with slow speed access don’t try it – or you will wait for around 15 minutes. Not too user friendly.

Just two regular Press releases are available in English, for the CPI and for Social Indicators. The latest CPI shows inflation at 54 per cent! However, both annual and monthly social and economic indicators are summarised in the next heading: the presentation here is good for the novice but the statistician will not appreciate the three dimensional charts.

The publications catalogue is just one long list that could be easily improved by introducing an hierarchy enabling the user to find more quickly the relevant publication. Prices are in US dollars and the subscription service is just an e-mail generator.

Much more thought needs to be given to the user of statistics and their needs. It is good to have the whole of the yearbook available – but, please, not as an entity!

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 4.72 on 30 December at 15.30 using a high speed access line (via Super JANet) on a 266 Mhz Pentium II machine.

Suggestions of interesting sites or interesting features found at statistical sites should be sent to me at

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

or by snail mail to National Assembly for Wales, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ.

... Happy (Millennium) surfing …. Hope the bugs stayed away from your systems at New Year.

…. Santa brought me a new Internet accessing home computer!