Surfing with Ed on the Internet ...

by Ed Swires-Hennessy, Welsh Office

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

I heard on the grapevine that Israel offered a site (http://www.cbs.gov.il/nashim/enashim1.htm) which was full of eastern promise. The home page took almost a minute to load with its many graphics and filled the equivalent of two screens: a better organisation and fewer graphics would reduce download time. But, once into the start of the site – the promise was realised! What a tremendous amount of useful and up-to-date data!

The first major topic is price indices: an odd choice unless one knows that these series are very important in Israel for both contract pricing and wage negotiation. (The statistical office has a 24-line automatic computer response line just for price indices.) First to show is the headline figure followed by a page of the most recent detail and chart options: meta-data and historic data are also accessed from this page.

It surprised me that there was a heading ‘Key data’ as well as ‘Israel in Figures’. But from this heading, the user can download series through a range of full and clear user options very quickly. I was disappointed that the data was in .csv format … but not for long.

Israel in Figures gives series for selected years for many subjects in bilingual format (English and Hebrew) but the years flow oddly for the English reader. Economic and financial data to the IMF Dissemination Standards are readily available, as are the main economic indicators.

The best was yet to come. The Monthly Bulletin of Statistics for February 1999 provides up-to-date tables on a full range of subjects that can be downloaded table by table using in Excel format, or in zipped form by groups of tables. This feature is extremely useful to users.

The whole of the Statistical Abstract of Israel, their yearbook, together with its new companion publication of graphs and charts, is available in similar download format to the monthly bulletin. The diagrams are in glorious technicolour and print off well.

Full organisation details are provided and were updated just over a week ago. These details include all the e-mail addresses of the senior staff.

On the home page a flashing graphic suggests we look at ‘CBS in the press’. This was the most disappointing part of the site as the releases shown relate to 1997 cuttings. Accessing the press notice part of the site, only available in Hebrew, gave the current weekly release calendar.

The change from English to Hebrew took almost 1 minute. But then one could access the well-ordered press releases for 1999 as well as the archive of 1997 and 1998 releases.

This site has many points that should be emulated. It is evidently under development and rapid improvement. Such full and free data availability is great news to the user. Seeing some of the charts, I may have been tempted to purchase a copy of the Graphics Yearbook – but, fortunately, I was given a free copy last week!

This review was undertaken using Netscape v4.05 on 4 March at 20.30 using a V34.4 modem on a 200MHz 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 surfing..