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.


With holidays in mind, I looked to the sun this month and to the site of the National Statistics Institute of Spain – English version - A warning appears that the data available here is not as complete as that through the Spanish version – but much data can be found in English. The flashing graphic for INebase is quite distracting and adds nothing. The simplicity of the left hand navigation can lead either to the INebase data or to the TEMPUS data. Apart from INebase, the other navigation headings have sub-menus accessed by rollovers. More use of the left-hand menu would free the right-hand side of the page for the important new data or announcements.


The navigation at the top of the page is simple yet effective. The information on contacts should also be accessed through the ‘About us’. Provision of a simple street map of each office would also help callers. Links are grouped effectively though named in Spanish. The site map provides the extensive view of INebase: data grouped under 14 themes which are easy to access, though some tables do require the presence of PC-Axis and its components to get at the data. A link to download the programs is given though it would be better to download from one of the other promoters of the product as you can have an English version. In a few places the data in tables were left justified within the Excel presentations. Whilst some of the text in this part of the site is only available in Spanish, the route to the data is worth examining just to get ideas of how easily it can be done!


The Consumer Prices part follows the standard presentations of the data. Within the Harmonised Indices, one is presented with a simple calendar to choose the relevant month and year; the result is only a single data point for the countries of the EU and the data format is unlike the standard for the rest of the site with a full-stop instead of a comma as the decimal indicator. Elsewhere in the site the full-stop is used as a thousands’ separator – which can be confusing in a seven digit number as two full-stops appear. For the latest month of the specific index above, the data for the UK was marked as not available but the chart implies a ‘nil’ value.


The availability of 400,000 time series under the TEMPUS heading is quite staggering. In addition it is quite impressive to look at the glossary here – in English – a model to all statisticians. A marginal problem appears under letter ‘S’ where the alignment has shifted right. The glossary also covers acronyms – a boon for the uninitiated and gives text in Spanish and English.


As ever, I start the data search with population- the most commonly requested piece of data. Using TEMPUS was easy and the system guided me through a series of selection until I had my table very quickly on the screen. The table heading were not always translated into English and given so one had to remember the selections. The data are selectable and can be cut and pasted easily into Excel. The automated graphic did not produce such a good result: the zero was missed from the scale base, exaggerating the growth in the population, gridlines were not provided for the reader to interpret and the top figure of the scale appeared to understate the final position.


Within Vital Statistics I tried to transfer data to my machine – and failed receiving just a ’Page cannot be found’ error when trying to download a ZIP file. If one stays with the ‘Access’ option, data are quickly provided. One can then cut and paste into Excel.


A great site for the inquisitive with some brilliant applications to guide the novice to data. The foundation is excellent – but this is very slightly overshadowed by the poor shape of the frills.


This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 3 July at 14.00 hrs GMT using a 256 Kbit link to the Internet on a Pentium III 866 MHz machine.


Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to