20 Years Ago


On the 2nd of September 1996, Statistics Switzerland published its brand-new website, www.bfs.admin.ch. It was one of the first (if not the first) of the Swiss Administration (www.admin.ch).


In three languages…

… and already with quite rich structure and content.


The Wayback Machine …

… shows the developments since 1996



Handmade with Frontpage as editing software



November 2004:
New layout, made with Day Communiqué as Content Management System and a database for file download


December 2007 ff
Layout adapted to the general layout of admin.ch. The same CMS now bought by Adobe and renamed Adobe Experience Manager AEM



The next one …

… must be based on a new technology:

  • CMS remains state of the art for content presentation
  • Assets come from databases
  • Web services (via a web service platform) deliver assets from databases to the presentation platform.

And with such a three-layer architecture the website will be able to display data from ubiquitous databases and also offering data to third parties via web services: Open data compatible.

Next Step in OGD Websites

What DataUsa is doing could be – I guess – the next step in the evolution of Open Government Data websites. It’s the step from offering file downloads to presenting data (and not files) interactively. And it’s a kind of presentation many official statistical websites would surely be proud of.

César A. Hidalgo from MIT discusses the philosophy behind this. More at the end of this post; at first a short look at this website.


Bringing data together

Merging data from different sources may have been the most expensive and challenging task and the conditio sine qua non for the existence of this website. And perhaps it’s more an organizational than a technical challenge.

Seven public data sources are accessible via DataUsa


Presenting data

Adapting to what internauts normally do, the main entrance is a search bar;



Thematical and geographical profiles are available, too. But in a hidden menu.

The presentation of the data is a mix of generated text and various types of graphs.




The option above every graph allows to share, embed, download, get a table and even an API for the data.



And finally thematical maps provide other views and insights:


But the fascinating part is Stories

Various authors write stories focussing on special topics and using the presentation techniques of the site.


A glossary explains technical terms and the About Section presents the authors and their aim:
‘In 2014, Deloitte, Datawheel, and Cesar Hidalgo, Professor at the MIT Media Lab and Director of MacroConnections, came together to embark on an ambitious journey — to understand and visualize the critical issues facing the United States in areas like jobs, skills and education across industry and geography. And, to use this knowledge to inform decision making among executives, policymakers and citizens.’

And this leads to the
Philosophy behind 

César A. Hidalgo, one of the websites’ authors explains why they did what they did in a blog post with the title ‘What’s Wrong with Open-Data Sites–and How We Can Fix Them.’

Here’s the design philosophy in a visual nutshell:



‘Our hope is to make the data shopping experience joyful, instead of maddening, and by doing so increase the ease with which data journalists, analysts, teachers, and students, use public data. Moreover, we have made sure to make all visualizations embeddable, so people can use them to create their own stories, whether they run a personal blog or a major newspaper.’


‘After all, the goal of open data should not be just to open files, but to stimulate our understanding of the systems that this data describes. To get there, however, we have to make sure we don’t forget that design is also part of what’s needed to tame the unwieldy bottoms of the deep web.’



Open Data Portals: News

There are new or refurbished open data portals to be announced.


Switzerland just published opendata.swiss in a new look for a better presentation of data. See the press release.




The European Commission published some months ago the European Data Portal.


europeandataportal.eu is much more than a collection of open data. It is an ecosystem with lots of documents explaining and promoting open data.


SPARQL inside!

The portal offers metadata as linked open data with an SPARQL endpoint for powerful searching.


select ?theme (count(?theme) as ?count) where {?s a dcat:Dataset . ?s dcat:theme ?theme} GROUP BY ?theme LIMIT 100  gives all  data categories/themes and their number of datasets .

Impact studies

Most of all these data are already published on other websites. The advantage of such open data portals are a centralized access and clear licence information, A main intention is to attract developers, to foster data usage and with this economic growth.

A Swiss study (January 2014) assesses the economic impact of Open Government Data: ´The report determined that the economic benefits from OGD for Switzerland lie most likely between CHF0.9 B and CHF1.2 B´.

snip_ogdstudie       All the details >>> here  (look for the extended executive summary).

European Study (November 2015) within the context of the launch of the European Data Portal got these results: “The aim of this study is to collect, assess and aggregate economic evidence to forecast the benefits of the re-use of Open Data for the EU28+. Four key indicators are measured: direct market size, number of jobs created, cost savings, and efficiency gains. Between 2016 and 2020, the market size of Open Data is expected to increase by 36.9%, to a value of 75.7 bn EUR in 2020. The forecasted number of direct Open Data jobs in 2016 is 75,000 jobs. From 2016 to 2020, almost 25,000 extra direct Open Data jobs are created. The forecasted public sector cost savings for the EU28+ in 2020 are 1.7 bn EUR. Efficiency gains are measured in a qualitative approach. ”

snip_EUimpactSee the details >>> here

Next: LOD

Open and machine-readable formats help to access data and foster the economic impact. Even better when the data have metadata in a standardized description. Linked Open Data (LOD) in RDF format provide this; europeandataportal.eu uses this format describing the harvested datasets (metadata). The next step will and must be data in this format in order to link masses of data in the linked data cloud.

With data.admin.ch a first step is been made in Switzerland.


Linked Data? In europeandataportal.eu’s ecosystem well made videos present explanations:




Look at the Elections

18 October 2015

On October 18, 2015, Swiss voters elect a new Parliament for the next four years.

snip_201510181systemSource: https://www.bk.admin.ch/

More about Swiss elections here

For the National Council (200 members), 3,802 candidates and more than 22 political parties take part.

And the winners are …

The polling stations closed at 12 AM. The results arrive canton by canton and are presented in an interactive visualisation – minute by minute.


Results as of 5 PM

By clicking one of the symbols, the details for a canton appear.


The results are updated in a database, and a script generates a visualisation on the spot. An easy way to follow the elections!

It’s the Statistical Atlas of the Federal Statistical Office that enables this presentation. And it’s no longer Adobe Flash needed to do it😉.

More than just Numbers

The historical research uses statistics since ever.  And Official Statistics are a favourite source for quantitative historiography and digital humanities.

‘Statistics are more than just numbers’

Statistics New Zealand depicts the history of the capital Wellington with a popular format – an infographic.

‘In 1865, following a period of heated debate, an independent tribunal of three Australians selected Wellington to be New Zealand’s capital. Since that time a lot has changed in Wellington and Statistics NZ has been able to follow and track that change through the data it collects.’

How true!: ‘Statistics are more than just numbers, they can chart change, record history, and be a tool for decision making.’ (Source: Stats NZ)




Mid-December 2014 Statistics Switzerland launched its first digital publication for tablets (iOs. Android) and (and!) browser, in French and German. The name for this publishing category is ‘DigiPub‘.


In App Store and Google Play

DigiPubs are provided via the SwissStats App available on Apple Store and Google Play (Windows to come later ).



In the browser 2015-07-17_webviewer.

The challenge: Storytelling in times of tablets

Storytelling in the time of tablets and mobile people performs in a new field.
The idea and the message are old – let‘s call it the book paradigm.
But it‘s a book in new clothes. New aspects must be taken into account: new possibilities, skills, tools and processes.



After evaluation, the choice for a performant and sustainable publishing instrument fell on: .folio, an open format, part of Adobe‘s Digital Publishing Suite DPS.

.folio provides:

  • Standardised navigation
  • Wide range of presentation possibilities
  • Integration of internet content
  • Runs on most platforms, also browsers
  • Publication in the major stores
  • Production based on layout programs, editing systems or web content management systems
  • Open format (ZIP archive with PDF, HTML, XML inside).


 Rethink publication !

Electronic publication offers everything needed to make a story appealing. But this means: Rethink publication!

Authors and also publication specialists (publishers, visualisers, layout designers) are challenged

  • in terms of concept with regard to the content that is to be communicated
  • in terms of the presentation due to the possibilities that the medium is opening up
  • in terms of collaboration with specialists.

New ways of working, processes and also changing job descriptions are the result and necessary.


The Concept

The whole story about choosing and developing DigiPubs is in the following presentation:

2015-02-19_dotfolioDownload presentation (format: Powerpoint): Dotfolio.pptx

Download presentation (format: PDF): dotfolio.pdf



Open, Useful, Reusable

In OECD’s brand new publication ‘Government at a Glance 2015’ we can find a new indicator: The OUR Index. It stands for ‘Open, Useful, Reusable Government Data’.

‘The new OECD OURdata Index reveals that many countries have made progress in making public data more available and accessible, but large variations remain, not least with respect to the quality of data provided. Governments need to make participation initiatives more accessible, targeted, relevant and appealing.’ (p.8)


‘The data come from the 2014 OECD Survey on Open Government Data. Survey respondents were predominantly chief information officers in OECD countries and two candidate countries (Colombia and Latvia). Responses represent countries’ own assessments of current practices and procedures regarding open government data. Data refer only to central/federal governments and exclude open government data practices at the state/local levels.’ (p.150)


Based on G8 recommendations

‘The OECD OURdata Index measures government efforts to implement the G8 Open Data charter based on the availability, accessibility and government support to promote the reuse of data, focusing on the central OGD portal in each country'( p.33)

‘The G8 Open Data Charter defines a series of five principles: 1) open data by default; 2) quality and quantity data; 3) usable by all; 4) releasing data for improved governance and; 5) releasing data for innovation, as well as three collective actions to guide the implementation of those principles.’
‘As a first step in producing a comprehensive measure of the level of implementation of the G8 Open Data Charter, the OECD pilot Index on Open government data assesses governments’ efforts to implement open data in three dimensions:
1. Data availability on the national portal (based on principle 1 and collective action 2);
2. Data accessibility on the national portal (based on principle 3) and
3. Governments’ support to innovative re-use and stakeholder engagement (principle 5).
The only principle not covered in this year’s index is Principle 4: Releasing Data for improved governance value (e.g. transparency) as existing measurement efforts have focused primarily on socio economic value creation’ (p.150)


And here comes the ranking

2015-07-10-OURdataIndexData for this chart: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933249180

Detailed data for the countries: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933249175

The publication

The publication: OECD (2015), Government at a Glance 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/gov_glance-2015-en