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 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe is one of the pan-European organisations seeking to collect and disseminate data on all aspects of life in the 55 member countries. The home page
( http://www.unece.org/ ) was slow to load (with significant graphics) but was initially in English with a toggle allowing one to choose French as the display language. Statistics is but one of the many available services offered: selecting statistics took me to an even slower (two and a half minutes download time at 7.40 a.m.) statistics home page, offering four choices in English, French or Russian. [It may be quicker for the user to cut down on the buttons here by opening in English but offering the facility, as on the organisation’s home page, of switching languages.] The English greeting displayed whilst the majority of the statistics home page
( http://www.unece.org/stats/stats_e.htm ) was loaded may not be appropriate to anyone enquiring from New Zealand.

The information available includes the meta-data on each member country’s statistical organisation, an archive of the papers on statistics prepared by UNECE as well as an on-line database server. The document archive has a variety of formats of documents, clearly described overall and then ascribed to each document. The paper on the ‘Fundamental principles of Official Statistics in ECE’ merits its own button - but in fact is only one of the documents available. If this is considered so important, it may be better to include the whole script and not push the user to download the document in PDF format.

Following the ‘Handbook of Official Statistics’ does not, as expected, lead to any statistics but to a short description of the legal and organisational aspects of statistics in all 55 member countries.

The real statistics are grouped into country profiles, forestry information and energy information. Into the country profiles - and, with my browser, an unintelligible display of numbers: the textual descriptions in white had merged with the background wallpaper and become unreadable. Undaunted I then chose the energy database - but the server was down. So the initial enthusiasm turned to disappointment: I did get some statistics but I know not to what they refer! A later attempt to access the energy database succeeded and allowed access into a public summary of the statistics. I was looking for a country by country comparison: perhaps this could be a development route for the site; I am not suggesting here a full matrix of all data but one for each theme.

Much work has been done on this site to help the user identify how old the data are: separate notes are given if differing updating times.

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....