Lost in the print world of old ?

OECD’s Statistics Newsletter of Juy 2010 brings a short article about On-line Data Dissemination Practices for Government and International Statistics.
San Cannon & Marc Rodriguez, Division of Research and Statistics,  of the Federal Reserve Board present the findings of their survey made in January 2010. They visited nearly 450 websites of  U.S. government agencies, national statistical organizations, central banks, and international institutions.
For each website visited, they looked for answers to 5 questions:
  1. Graphics: Any? Static or interactive? Interesting features (maps, etc)?
  2. Data presentation: HTML or spreadsheets for data tables or are there other formats?
  3. Download functionality: Predefined or customizable? Applications?
  4. Plain language» or descriptive sites to explain their statistics?
  5. Licensing info: Terms of use? License or copyright notice? Pricing?

Some of their findings:

Graphics

‘The majority of sites that publish official statistics do not incorporate any graphical representation into their websites.’

Data Presentation

‘..  while HTML was the most popular format, PDFs were more prevalent than spreadsheets. We take this as evidence that many institutions have operations and attitudes that are still very much centred on the presentation of data on the printed page. ‘

‘It is interesting to note that PC-Axis is only used in the world of official statistics outside the United States: 10% of the NSO websites offer data in that format but not one U.S. agency does. … PC-Axis would seem to be an effective way for statistical agencies from different countries to pool their resources.’

Download Functionality

‘Again, it seems clear that institutions tend to present a defined set of information rather than allowing users to define their own.’

Conclusion

‘From this, admittedly cursory examination of the dissemination practices of providers of international statistics, it seems that the main approach still undertaken by the majority of statistical disseminators is to electronically replicate the print world of old. Many are taking baby steps, or in some cases giant leaps, toward the brave new world of Web 2.0 but they are still solidly in the minority.’

The complete article in The Statistics Newsletter.

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