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.

And when you read this, I should be in … Romania helping with an aid convoy. So I thought I would visit the web site of the Romanian Statistical Office, locally known as the Comisia Nationala pentru Statistica (CNS) at (http://www.cns.ro/).

Following some difficulty gaining access with the first few attempts, I returned the following day. After three days of failed attempts, I decided to give up .. and set off for Romania.

But before I went, I visited Statec, the statistical office of Luxembourg. The opening page, available in English, French and German, with many graphic parts took over 30 seconds to load. Some of the data are not available in languages other than French and a note indicates that on the home page – with the helpful offer to translate it and forward it to you. The three major parts of this site available in English are information about Statec, statistics about Luxembourg (basically the publications ‘Luxembourg in figures’ and ‘An Economic Portrait of Luxembourg’) and Intrastat. The Statec information is in suitable and manageable chunks for the layman to absorb and is a model in clarity.

The data from Luxembourg in figures is comprehensive and exceptionally well presented using the left hand side of the screen as a contents list. The cover of the booklet displayed on opening the (English) edition is that of the French edition! But at least all the text inside is in English.

The Economic Portrait is also well presented in very readable text with appropriate figure support. Charts and the occasional picture enhance the overall impression.

Intrastat, the customs declaration and statistical system, allows access to the basic information on the system as well as the forms and notes. The form, available in PDF format, allows precise downloads and printing.

For those who can also read French, the French language part of the site additionally provides the latest press notices (again using the left hand part of the screen as a contents list) and the catalogue of publications. The press notices do not give instant access to the latest figures but expect the user to want to see the whole press notice.

The publications catalogue is very well developed offering a shopping basket approach: this could well be a worthwhile development for National Statistics or for individual departments. The possibility of displaying one title at a time with a picture is far better than displaying many photos at once (slowing down page loading).

Overall the site is light on data but welcoming to all users with the ease of e-mailing or telephoning for further information. I know the service obtained by enquirers is certainly something given high priority within the organisation and so the direct absence of data could be just a minor irritation.

The use of the left hand part of the page is one I have seen before which may be improved if, instead of using the slide bar, an extendable list is provided. So, for example in the Luxembourg in Figures, the chapter headings are given in the left hand column and, on selecting one, it could expand to give the chapter’s detail.

Overall, a worthwhile site to visit.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 4.72 on 18 October at 13.30 using a high speed access line (via Super JANet) on a 266 Mhz Pentium II 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 (statistics) surfing ….