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.

From the complicated and very expensively developed Eurostat site last month I tried to connect to probably the least expensive - that of the National Statistical Office of Malawi. this site at ( ). However, in the three attempts made the server was not responding - one of the hazards of basic life in Malawi. And so I moved North East across the sea to India.

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation of the Government of India can be found at
( ). The opening page was quick to load and gave sufficient basic pointers for a flying start. A quick guide to the overall aims and structure of the ministry is given in the general section though one page at first failed to open. The structure usefully includes all the addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of the senior staff.

The statistics are given in two parts: that relating to the IMF data [Summary data (real sector)] and the general statistics [under Activities]. The colour scheme on most of the latter (e.g. Social Statistics and Vital Rates) is worth viewing to see how not to colour pages for the web or to present the data.

The National Accounts information included as the first heading under 'Activities' gives three press notices with hyperlinks to each. The dates of the press notices are inconsistent in format and the first link does not work. This is not a problem however as the document is immediately below the table of press notices!. The three dimensional bar chart included is a good example of one that should not be included in statistical outputs.

'Activities' also includes links to other sites (over 100 in an alphabetic list which includes the Republic of Ireland under the United Kingdom!!), publication lists, information about the survey organisation and computer centre. Note that on the last of these brief details are given of the data warehouse project and the dissemination of data from it.

The publication list is split into priced and unpriced but the unpriced documents are not available on the web. The priced list of 22 documents gives insufficient information to order by post because postage charges are not specified.

The site is still under development as six of the seventeen items on the English home page and 11 of the seventeen items on the Hindi version are not yet active.

The link to press releases takes one only to the same page as the National Accounts releases. The Annual Report is available as one document: the text is reasonably speedy to download but the 3.5Mb of embedded GIF files takes too long to download. The formatting is poor and would be better for the reader in structured HTML or simple Acrobat format.

Surf here and see some of the problems that can be encountered with sites.

Always remember the basic data presentation rules when putting tables of data onto the Web: right justification, thousand separators (comma or space, depending on country preference) and appropriate rounding.

Next month I expect to review the new UK National Statistics site launched on 7 June
(   ): any comments you have on your experience of the site should be forwarded to me by 30 June.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 4.72 on 5 June at 10.00 hrs GMT using a high speed access line (via Super JANet) on a 266 Mhz Pentium II machine.

Comments and suggestions for sites to review to me, please,

... Happy surfing