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.

This month we travel half the way round the world – in the click of a button – to Hong Kong. The site of the Central Statistics Department of Hong Kong at http://www.info.gov.hk/censtatd/ is one where the first entry is adorned with a multitude of graphics! One is offered a start in either Chinese or English and, having chosen, proceeds to the second page which …. is full of even more graphics including a large landscape picture of the Hong Kong skyline that took over a minute to load. Even the buttons on this site are large graphics adding considerably to the access times. Choosing ‘statistics’ one is then presented with three options, Hong Kong in Figures, Frequently Asked Statistics and Press Releases.

Within Hong Kong in Figures both the graphics and the words are hyperlinked allowing reasonable quick access. But the page is much too long to fit on the screen. The available data are broken down into 15 headings, similar to the pillar structure in GSS data. Choosing one of the groups brings up (more) graphics for available tables on the left-hand side of the screen along with the first table. These data do not cut and paste into Excel. Updating is not frequent (though they are much more up-to-date than UK in figures on our sites) but an indication is given that both more up-to-date and longer time series data are available on the Frequently Asked Statistics pages.

In the Frequently Asked Statistics section, the only heading visible in the first screen is ‘Population’, the rest being hidden below. The statistics are available under eight major headings which appear to have a low correlation with the headings in Hong Kong in Figures. Direct cut and paste doesn’t work here either but, if one is patient enough to scroll to the bottom of all the page, another (graphic) button will allow speedy download to Excel. Other buttons at the foot of the table give access to other tables in the section or diagrams (always called graphs) or the latest press release on the particular subject.

In the Introduction to the Statistical Department three sections are given. The Organisation and management contains an organogram which, being a large graphic, takes a long time to load! The second section is the Performance Pledge: this is a very interesting topical document that could be well emulated in other countries. Within this is a list of the main e-mail, facsimile and telephone contact points. The final section is Implementation of the code of practice: again a highly topical and relevant document for the users of statistics.

From the main page is a link to the publications’ section. The list, with brief descriptions of the documents, is in 18 groups. Information is available as to how to obtain the publications but the system for overseas is a little complex and will take some time to get the publications in one’s hands. And the cost for a foreign bankers’ draft, at HK$50, seems a little excessive. Credit card charging is certainly the way to go which will obviate the additional costs and speed the processing.

The press release dates for the statistics are given up to the end of 1999 by month and day! A special section is headed Topical issues of current interest but this is merely a list of the latest issues.

Overall navigation within this site is quite poor and much more thought need to be given in the design to the user who is not too familiar with the specific site. The abundant use of graphics does slow the access to the real data quite considerably.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer v4 on 29 April at 10.15 using a V34.4 modem on a Dell Gx pro machine: line speed was noted as only 19.2k.

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 ..