Surfing to .. Finland

In reviewing the sites I had visited in the last two years, I realised that I had not visited that of Statistics Finland (www.stat.fi/index_en.html) since January 2011. This site was always one I considered to be of the best – and the immediate view of the single-screen Home page confirms this. The page is ‘clean’ and clear with the top navigation a clear white text on blue ground whilst all hyperlinked text is in the same blue. The top four entries on the left-hand navigation allow all users to access the data they require in the way they want it and key statistics are also clearly positioned at the top towards the right. Each of the key statistics has a period shown as well as the latest data and the whole line is hyperlinked to the press release. I noted that in these press releases, numbers greater than 1,000 use a comma as a thousands’ separator but, in tables, a space is used.  In the top right position is a novel and useful set of links – I would assume to the most requested pages.

The top navigation starts with ‘Statistics’ – another way in which includes a search function. I looked for population data and found 11 datasets: I chose the Preliminary Population Statistics and was surprised to have a page displayed indicating that the data has not been released and would not be available in English anyway! Switching to Finnish gave the information.

‘Metadata’ is separate from the statistics in this site, unlike in the Spanish site reviewed last month and thus is not quite as easy for the user to access. However, if one follows a concept or definition, a link to the statistics appears at the bottom of the explanation. I followed Accident incidence rate: linked to the statistics and was surprised to find the totals at the top of sections in the table and not labeled as totals. In addition to the concepts and definitions one can also access descriptions of statistics. I looked at the description for Births. Here a full description of content, classification, legal basis, collection methods, timing and contact information are given. Strangely, the contact information appears as a web page link but the linked page does give names and telephone numbers of contacts together with the option to e-mail questions etc.

Next on the top navigation is Data Collections. I chose the Adult Education Survey – and just had the headings of information that should be available (the Finnish version is complete). Then I selected Credit cards – and did get the information in English.

Returning to the Home page, the statistics releases shown have a mix of phrasing: some quote the latest data, some a key message in words (Number of enterprise openings turned to a strong decline) and some just an announcement of the data release (Preliminary data on greenhouse gas emissions in 2011). It looks like no editorial control is exercised.

Finally I surfed to the data themselves. Looking for the population structure, it took several links to get to the list of PC-Axis tables available. But the travel was worthwhile to be able to specify the precise data required (by area, date and sex)  and then to be able to export the resultant table to Excel or in CSV or PC-Axis format. The data here employ a comma as a thousands’ separator.

The power of this website, as in that of the Spanish National Institute of Statistics, is the simple availability of a mass of data. Being able to select parts of datasets and exporting the resultant tables allows users to get what they want without having to download a mass of data they don’t want which has to be worked on. Interweaving of metadata into various places is obviously being undertaken which again assists the users. This site still deserves to be in the top five.

Happy surfing …

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 26 April 2012 at 21.00 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

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