It is over a decade since I assisted with the creation of the website of the National Statistics Office of Malawi. The current site (http://www.nso.malawi.net/) bears no resemblance to the original – and that is just one indication of the progress and change all those responsible for web dissemination of statistics have faced. The home page is clean if just a little longer than desirable: this may have occurred because of the write-up of the latest survey having pushed the central section down the page.
Access to the site seems slow and the downloading of the 1.4 Mb yearbook took several minutes. These files do not have any size associated with them on-screen so it is just a matter of waiting. However, the 105 pages of the yearbook are laid out clearly with good table presentation. If download speeds are an issue it would be worth giving consideration to splitting the volume into chapters with an intermediate page so the whole does not need to be downloaded if only one table is required. It is presented in PDF format – which is not helpful to the user of data.
The monthly statistical bulletin, again in PDF format, does not have similar table presentation to the yearbook with many mis-aligned data items.
From the NSO Management tab, the senior staff names are given with their qualifications and pictures but without email or telephone contact details. The information presented by following the ‘About us’ tab is a little out of date – showing, for agriculture, a reference to a 1992 survey! This is a clear reminder to us all to check what we believe are fixed pages to see that they are still relevant and provide accurate and up-to-date information.
A little more researching and I found on the left-hand navigation CountryStat. This relates only to food and agriculture data but the response was very quick, presented the user with options to access the data cubes and then delivered the data quickly on screen. Once delivered, the user can manipulate the resulting table with easy to use buttons at the top of the page – or export the data to Excel or PC-Axis. Why is this so different from the rest of the site? Because it does not run on the NSO website and does not have links on it back to the NSO site!
Much work needs to be done to the main NSO site to make the data accessible and usable together with the updating of information pages. Indications of the file sizes and types of file would also help users as would a note when the user is directed to another website.
Happy surfing …
This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 22 February 2012 at 14.00 hrs GMT using a 30 Mb link to the Internet on an Intel Core i3-2100 3.1 GHz machine.
This and reviews since January 2009 are published in the blog; earlier reviews are published to my website, http://www.surfingwithed.org.uk