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.

The Central Statistical Service in South Africa ( http://www.statssa.gov.za/ ) can be accessed only in English and not in the other 10 official languages! The site is very comprehensive in the provision of both statistics and information. The breadth of information available provides evidence of openness in the statistical processes: for example, the section on the 1996 Population Census provides detailed explanations of the undercount and both provisional and final estimates of the undercount. This is the first site I have reviewed that has a commercial sponsor.

The home page of the site is around four screens in length: the first visible area sets out many small graphics next to hypertext links. The sections of the site portrayed on this first visible area do not appear in any particular order, certainly not alphabetic and probably not on any demand basis. The organisation of the site can be greatly improved by adding an extra level of hierarchy, possibly retaining on the first screen key links to, say, the Economic Indicators and Statistics in Brief.

The summary census results are announced by a flashing graphic and following this route takes one to both information about the census and the results themselves. The presentation of the papers is simple, not using web authoring tools, but does have the merit of being simple to cut and paste. The summary tables of figures are presented as graphics and employ a small font size which, combined with the use of coloured column backgrounds, makes some data hard to read.

Statistics in Brief has a redundant first screen but, after this, significant quantites of data are readily accessible. The contents page indicates 25 tables but this is actually 25 sections of data. These tables are not easy to cut and paste but can be easily printed (with hints on printing of tables given on the home page). Further, the data in the tables are not right justified and have a mix of data formats in the same tables. Cetain sections of Statistics in Brief do contain charts, most of which are well presented and apposite: however, a three dimensional chart does occasionally appear! From the contents of Statistics in Brief navigation is not provided back to the home page.

The latest statistical information is provided in Statistical Releases which are grouped by theme. Within each theme, it is easy to find the latest one or the one relating to the subject of interest. Again, with the use of the hint on printing provided on the home page, these releases are easy to print out, providing the latest information quickly and easily.

Overall this site has excellent information provision and can really only be improved by some attention to layout, navigation and, with the use of the latest HTML tools, the provision of tables that can be readily downloaded to spreadsheets.

This review was undertaken using Netscape v4.05 on 3 November at 09.30 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....

PS:

The GSS site ( http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ ) is our front page to the electronic community. If you have any news items to be advertised on the site, or comments on the site, please send them to marian.cooney@ons.gov.uk