Statistical data about population, economy, transports, criminality etc. use lots of variables to describe their object. And there is no single table that answers all the multiple dimensions of questions users are asking.
To do this there exist multidimensional tables (cubes, universes) and specialized software which allow to filter the statistical variables and to get the individually needed results.
Some weeks ago OECD has launched such a new service for accessing OECD Statistics called OECD.Stat: “OECD.Stat contains complete databases and is freely available as a beta release via OECD’s iLibrary, SourceOECD for the first half of 2008. …. Following five years of behind-the-scenes work to combine OECD databases into a single system, OECD.Stat will enable users to search for and extract data from across OECD’s many databases for the first time.” see here: www.SourceOECD.org/database/OECDStat
This is one of the best applications of this kind I know, giving an easy access to topics , to combining them, to look up metadata and to filtering possibilities.
Again in OECD’s words: “OECD.Stat offers three key features:
• Discovery: users can search for complex statistical data across OECD databases with one click access to the datasets themselves from the search results.
• Mix and Merge: for the first time, users can extractdata from across all 50 databases in one enquiry. New functions enable users to gather and assemble data from various datasets in unique and customizable tables.
• Metadata: Improved metadata down to the level of each datapoint means that users can understand the origins of each statistic and the overall context, aiding comprehension.” (OECD Statistics Newsletter January-February 2008)
There are other applications with these functionalities.
For example the wide spread PC-AXIS (Sweden, Denmark …) presented here: http://www.pc-axis.scb.se/.
Or Superweb with examples in
Austria (http://sdb.statistik.at/superweb/login.do) and
Switzerland (http://superweb-close.bfs.admin.ch/superweb/logon.jsp?language=en ).
Or many others based on commercial software or built inhouse … send me more links and descriptions in the comments area!