INTERACTIVE STATISTICAL ATLAS OF SLOVENIA
Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia
The Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia is a new tool on the website of the Statistical Office
of the Republic of Slovenia (SORS). It facilitates an easy review of selected statistical indicators
on maps of municipalities and statistical regions. Through this tool, SORS is expanding its set of
web services to different profiles of users and invites them to discover the distinctions between
Slovenian regions and municipalities by way of statistical data. The tool is intended for users
who are less skilled in using statistical data, as well as for more demanding users applying it, for
example, as database support in strategic decision-making involving Slovenia's regional
By publishing the Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia, SORS is realising the objectives of its
statistical data dissemination strategy. In developing this tool, the needs of various user groups,
the principles of cartographic display of data and international experience in the area of
interactive web tool development were considered. This paper provides a detailed description of
the basic premises and project elements.
2 National statistics and dissemination of statistical data
The mission of Slovenian national statistics is to provide users with statistical data. The
regulatory framework covering national statistics (National Statistics Act (Official Gazette of the
Republic of Slovenia [Uradni list RS], Nos 45/1995 and 9/2000)) provides that "users" shall
mean public administration bodies and organisations, the corporate sector and the general public.
The data must demonstrate quality and be published in good time. They should also be
comparable both as to time and place and internationally, and cover all areas of human existence
and creation, which includes economic, demographic and social areas, as well as the areas of
environment and natural resources. SORS performs statistical services at the national level,
together with authorised providers defined in the Medium-term Programme of Statistical Surveys
2008–2012. One of the most important tasks defined at the end of the statistical process is the
task most perceived by users, i.e. dissemination of statistical data.
The term "dissemination" means the activity of disseminating or publishing statistical data and
methods. The strategic policies of the national statistics covered in the Medium-term Programme
of Statistical Surveys 2008–2012 also include the Strategy of Dissemination and Communication
The objectives of the Strategy are:
- user satisfaction,
- increased statistical literacy,
- visibility and reputation of the SORS trademark, users' trust and effective use of
statistical data, and
- effective preparation, promotion and communication of information.
Internationally, the role of the official (national) statistics as a basis for informed decision-
making, being one of the fundamental elements of democracy, has been increasingly emphasised
in recent years. Official statistics provide internationally comparable data obtained by scientific
methods and common principles of statistical data quality. In most countries, the set of statistical
data offered by the official statistics is very comprehensive, while their use is quite often limited
or poorly developed. There are various reasons for this situation: from poor acquaintance of
users with the set of accessible statistical data to the demanding search for adequate data and
their proper understanding and interpretation. Therefore, several statistical offices increasingly
emphasise the importance of better accessibility and comprehensibility of statistical data.
In planning the development of the Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia, the experience of
other international organisations and foreign statistical offices was considered. By organising the
conferences entitled "Innovative Approaches to Turning Statistics into Knowledge" (Rome 2007,
Stockholm 2008, Washington 2009), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) encouraged an intensive exchange of experience in the international
environment. By publishing the new tool, SORS is joining the newest guidelines covering the
development of web services for statistical data users.
3 Statistical data users and the Internet
With the appearance of the Internet, the number and structure of statistical data users have
radically changed. In the period of printed publications, SORS had transparent databases of users
(clients) at its disposal, and personal visits of users to the Office were nothing rare. There were
fewer users who, as a rule, were statistically educated and their needs were easier to monitor.
The outset of publishing data on websites saw a substantial increase in their number; their skills
and needs became quite differentiated, while the possibilities of their identification were very
In developing websites, it is not possible to satisfy the needs of all users by applying the same
methods of presenting statistical data. Therefore, SORS's products vary in respect of various
needs and possibilities of statistical data application determined by the statistical and computer
literacy of user groups. User groups can be defined in various ways. The initial segmentations of
users were based on the area of activity of particular users (public institutions, schools, research
community, media, etc.), while recently there has been an increasing tendency to generally
classify them into three groups: the so-called "tourists" (schools, media, general public – users
with general interest), "producers" (decision-makers, managers – users with business interest)
and "miners" (universities, experts, government institutions – users with research interest). This
user segmentation in the area of statistics was first applied by Grossenbacher (2006). In spite of
the fact that this segmentation allows different interpretations, it nevertheless emphasises
substantial differences as to the interests, skills and needs of individual user groups.
Figure 1: The three user groups
Source: Grossenbacher, 2006
Because of its clear and simple communication capacity, interactivity and dynamic presentation
of phenomena, the Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia is a suitable tool for the widest circle
of users. Although primarily intended for the general public, it nevertheless offers more
demanding (business or research) users additional options provided by supplementary definitions
and links to detailed or more updated information.
4 Cartographic presentation of statistical data
For different profiles of users, SORS is preparing various products, one of the constants being
data visualisation. The most common methods of data visualisation are charts and maps. The
primary objective of data visualisation is to communicate information in a comprehensible and
effective manner by way of computer graphics. To emphasise the idea in an effective and
aesthetic way means that, instead of complex databases, key views are presented in an intuitive
Maps are the most efficient tools to visualize spatial patterns. When carefully designed and
presented, they are more than just decorative features in a statistical presentation. They can help
people identify and highlight distributions and patterns that might not be apparent from tables
and charts. If "a picture is worth a thousand words", then "a map is worth a thousand numbers".
In our visual era, maps are a powerful information medium. They serve as valuable decision-
making tools for experts, politicians and the general public, and meet a growing demand for
information in all parts of society (UNECE, 2009).
Well designed maps are easy to understand. It is typical of many software solutions that during
the development stage a new tool, although easy to use and intuitive and not requiring specific
training, demands most analysis, intellectual input and thorough testing. Solutions which at first
sight seem complex and exacting, perhaps indeed support demanding processes, however they
usually reflect the fact that the implementation was not designed to sufficiently emphasise the
end user's needs. The same is also true of the content-related preparation of maps on which any
data can be displayed. However, the sole displaying of data in space does not ensure the
communication capacity of the map. In order to display data on maps, the absolute statistical data
must be converted into indicators, as this is the only way to ensure comparability between units
of various sizes. Thus, the Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia shows indicators per 1,000
population in a region or municipality, coefficients, indices, averages, various structures
(percentages) and also a number of calculations per municipality surface area. The explanations
of the meaning of individual indicators are displayed below the chart, where users are also
offered links to more detailed data published on SORS's web pages.
Figure 2: Ageing index indicator on map, with methodological explanations below
5 Design and project implementation
In recent years, SORS has published several printed publications for the purpose of presenting
statistical data at lower territorial levels (e.g. Slovenian Regions in Figures and Slovenian
Municipalities in Figures, published in 2009 for the first time). Through cartographic methods of
presenting statistical data we wish to encourage discussions on regional differences in Slovenia
and facilitate the appropriate design of regional development strategies. The presentation of
statistical data has for quite some time been facilitated by the SI-STAT data portal, which is
basically intended for more demanding users. In order to effect the map display, the data must
first be found in the corresponding table and typed on the monitor. However, more advanced
tools for data display on maps, which have in recent years been developed internationally,
provide for the display of pre-produced data suitable for cartographic presentation. Although the
development of such a tool requires a more sophisticated procedure of preparing data and
producing the tool, it qualifies for use by a wider circle of users.
SORS developed the Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia in cooperation with the company
Monolit d.o.o., selected by way of a public call for tenders. The key tasks in developing this web
tool were performed by the Dutch company Mapping World, which had also developed similar
tools for the International Monetary Fund (IMF Data Mapper) and the World Bank (Millennium
Development Atlas, World Bank Atlas). The development stage was concluded in December
2008, while the Atlas has been accessible on the SORS website since June 2009 upon the
completion of the operational test period. The tool is designed in two languages, i.e. Slovene and
The innovative web information solution thus enabled SORS to transfer and adapt international
good practices for the benefit of Slovenian statistical data users. The basic policy in producing
the tool was to make it as simple as possible, as well as to ensure flexibility and adaptation to
specific characteristics of the Slovenian environment. Consequently, the tool facilitates the
supplementation of new content, the display of the number and boundaries of municipalities, and
presentation of data in various time series.
We included in the Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia the initial set of indicators prepared
according to data previously published on SORS's web pages. When the set of indicators will be
expanded, it would be wise to include data produced by other public institutions.
The criteria for the selection of indicators and data intended for publication:
− socially topical statistical data and/or statistical data of interest to the general public;
− availability of quality data at the level of municipalities and statistical regions, and
− suitability of a phenomenon for cartographic presentation.
One of the important functions of web applications is the promotion of national statistics among
the general public and in national institutions. As the statistical data entry point for integration in
various websites, we intend to offer the Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia to other national
institutions, particularly to public sector organisations which operate in the area of regional
6 How to use the Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia
The tool is intended for use in a web browser. Its functioning was tested with the two most
widely used browsers, i.e. Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. The use of the tool requires the
user to install Adobe Flash Player, which is quite a common requirement of modern websites
with interactive content.
Starting the application brings up the welcome window. To display a map, the user must select
either content or an indicator. Interactivity means that the user can control individual functions
by using the mouse. These functions are the following:
a) moving the cursor across the map or chart displays data on the map;
b) selecting individual regions on the map or in the pull-down menu limits the display to the
c) in selecting the region, the chart also displays only data for the selected region;
d) charts facilitate the arrangement of regions or municipalities according to data and
consequently an easy assessment of the highest or lowest values;
e) the field providing methodological explanations includes basic definitions and a link to
more detailed data;
f) users can save the displayed image or data for the selected indicator at any time on their
Figure 3: Interactive Statistical Atlas features
Select territorial level average data
linked with the
Eplanations and links to
Download data or detailed data About the tool
picture and the project
A specific mode of cartographic presentation features so-called "metamorphoses". In this mode,
the surface area of territorial units (regions or municipalities) changes according to the size of the
selected phenomenon. In terms of comprehension, this mode is somewhat more demanding.
However, in comparison with the arrangement of spatial units in a limited number of classes, it
facilitates a more attractive illustration of distinctions.
Due to the technical requirements of this type of data display, the metamorphoses were included
in the initial version of the Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia only for the last reference year
(2007) relating to the following three indicators: number of population, number of persons in
employment and self-employed persons, and number of unemployed persons in a region or
municipality. The colours used on the map reflect data for the selected content, while the size of
spatial units reflects the selected metamorphosis.
Statistical data are an important basis for both the preparation of strategic documents and a
review of the achievement of set objectives. Because of its clear and uncomplicated
communication capacity, interactivity and dynamic presentation of phenomena, the Interactive
Statistical Atlas of Slovenia is a suitable tool for the widest circle of users. This is an innovative
solution which implements international examples of good practice into the Slovenian
environment. It facilitates an easy review of selected statistical data and indicators on interactive
maps, as well as the presentation of time-related types of data at the level of statistical regions
The Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia is also intended for users with lower statistical
literacy and persons who do not have their own tools for the cartographic presentation of data.
The tool facilitates an easy review of otherwise complex data and phenomena, and the rules of
their arrangement in space. Quite often, a phenomenon described by statistical data is easier to
understand on maps than in other forms of presentation. In designing the tool, the needs of
various user groups, the principles of cartographic indication of data and modern web technology
were considered. The tool has been accessible to users since June 2009 (link).
8 Sources and bibliography
1. Zakon o državni statistiki (National Statistics Act), Uradni list RS (Official Gazette of the
Republic of Slovenia), Nos 45/1995 and 9/2000.
2. Medium-term Programme of Statistical Surveys 2008–2012, Uradni list RS (Official Gazette
of the Republic of Slovenia), No 119/2007.
3. Grossenbacher, Armin. 2006. The shift from print to electronic publishing. Strategy,
concepts and daily life in dissemination of statistical information. IMAODBC, Avila, Spain.
4. Ponniah, Paulraj. 2001. Data Warehousing Fundamentals: A Comprehensive Guide for IT
Professionals. A Wiley-Interscience Publication. New York / Chichester / Weinheim /
Brisbane / Singapore / Toronto.
5. Rosling, Hans. 2007. Visual technology unveils the beauty of statistics and swaps policy
from dissemination to access. Statistical Journal of the IAOS 24: 103–104.
6. Thygesen, Lars, Sundgren, Bo. 2008. Innovative approaches to turning statistics into
knowledge. Statistical Journal of the International Association for Official Statistics, Special
issue: Web 2.0 and Official Statistics. Vol. 25, Numbers 3, 4: 93–102.
7. Ten Bosch, Olav, De Jonge, Edwin. 2008. Visualising official statistics. Statistical Journal
of the International Association for Official Statistics, Special issue: Web 2.0 and Official
Statistics. Vol. 25, Numbers 3, 4: 103–124.
8. UNECE: Making Data Meaningful. Part 2. Style guide on the presentation of statistics. Final
draft, July 2009.
9. Wikipedia, Free Encyclopaedia: Data visualization. Internet source: