Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia

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About the tool and the project on mapping statistics of Slovenian municipalities (http://stat.monolit.si/)

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Interactive Statistical Atlas of Slovenia

  1. 1. INTERACTIVE STATISTICAL ATLAS OF SLOVENIA Katja Šnuderl Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia 1 Introduction 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 development. 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 with Users. The objectives of the Strategy are: - user satisfaction, - increased statistical literacy,
  2. 2. - 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. (Thygesen, 2008) 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 limited. 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. Stran 2/7
  3. 3. 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 manner. 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 Stran 3/7
  4. 4. 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 Stran 4/7
  5. 5. 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 English. 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 development. 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 selected region; Stran 5/7
  6. 6. 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 computer. Figure 3: Interactive Statistical Atlas features Select Slovenia Select territorial level average data content Select Data region display Sorting Interactive chart, linked with the Zoom map 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. Stran 6/7
  7. 7. 7 Summary 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 and municipalities. 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: http://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podatkovna_vizualizacija, 18.8.2009 Stran 7/7

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