Vincenzo Patruno – ISTAT (Italy)
Statistical Data Dissemination
Attempting to understand, to study or to know complex social and economic phenomena of a Country or a
given territory is possible thanks to the daily job of National Institutes and Statistical Offices that carry out
surveys, elaborate obtained data and disseminate results.
The “data dissemination” is the moment in which National Institutes and Statistical Offices deliver
statistical data to the Scientific Community, to the Governments, the Companies, the Professionals,
Politics and the Citizens.
They use statistical data in order to analyze and to understand the World around us, in order to understand
the territory, in order to take economic or political informed decisions and so on.
After Internet, nothing was like before. This was true mainly for data and information producers and
consumers as well as for software producers. The Internet made possible the delivery of this kind of goods
at destination, instantly, without brokers and with no added costs.
With Internet and the Web, the “traditional” statistical publications made with paper and ink and
containing tables and tables of statistical data, gradually have been transformed in “electronic” format. A
link on the Statistical Office Web site, a click on the link and the table or the publication is downloaded (or
displayed) on the user's PC.
In this case all data, all tables, all charts need in any case to be prepared in advance. This is for sure a
solution for data dissemination easy to implement for the data producer, but it has a strong limit: the
publication, even in electronic format, has to be set up and the tables of data have however to be prepared.
In this scenario the user is forced to download and browse in multiple published electronic documents to
find the required information with limited search capabilities.
These (and others) reasons laid the foundations for the success of statistical Data Warehouses: storing data
in an organised format inside a Database in order to permit the build-up of statistical tables dinamically. In
other words, not more static and predefined tables but tables of data generated “on the fly” based on
choices made by the user. In this case there are pratically no limits to the amount of reports possible to
disseminate. The advantages of implementing statistical data warehouses is that the users will be obtaining
data from a single repository and thus having a consistent source for all reports.
The new Web User
But who is the user of statistical data? In the past the user was always seen as the “end point” of the whole
data dissemination process. But this “historical” idea of user is changing. The new Web user isn't anymore
only a “reader” of the Web. The New Web User is now a protagonist of the Web. He plays an active role
to disseminate, to share, to discuss, to promote and to improve information. This new scenario can be the
ideal land for associating the traditional Data Dissemination with what I like to call “Data Sharing”. And
“Data Sharing” has a strong implications both to technological level and to the behaviors of the user. In this
case data don't need to be downloaded locally on the user's PC, but they are released to be easily
“embedded” in Blogs and other Web sites.
Sharing statistical data
1. Open “WordPad” o “Block Notes” on your PC. (No Windows? Any text editor is OK)
2. Copy/Paste the following “embed code”
3. Save your document on Desktop with .html extention (ie. netmig.html)
4. Double Click on the “netmig.html” icon (Tested with IE8, FF, Chrome, Opera)
The result of copying and pasting the code into a web page is to embed a Web application (widget) into the
page. It’s exactely the same behaviour we have when we use the “embed code” closed every movie on
Youtube to share it on our own site, blog or a Social Network.
Fig. 1: Net Migration in Rome as displayed using the widget
It's interesting to underline as the chart containing data about Net Migration always remains on the
original server. Every time the chart will be displayed on any web page, it will be downloaded from that
server. The advantage is a centralized management of the widget. If for instance you change the chart
content adding a new data or you wish to modify the colours or the layout, all new changes will be
displayed on the same time on all sites and blogs that embedded the chart using the code shown before. In
this way, we created a direct “channel” between the data producer and the data consumer.
When new data about net migration will be released by the Italian Institute of Statistics, all web pages
containing the embedded widget will show automatically the updated data, all at the same time and
without middlemen. In fact all data displayed on the chart come (via API) directely from demo.istat.it, the
ISTAT's official Web site for population data dissemination, although the Widget is stored physically on
my personal web site (vincenzopatruno.org). This is what we usually call Mash-up.
With the following “embed code”
we can share on our own web site or blog the following table containing data about population of the
Municipality of Rome (Italy), as shown in the following example.
Fig. 2: Widget showing the population in Rome using the embed code
Also in this case the table is built “on the fly” using data coming in real time from Istat's web site
demo.istat.it. Using the embed code, everybody can share the table on his own web site or Blog. And the
statistical information that propagates throughout the Blogosphere, offers to Statistical Offices new an
interesting opportunity: a statistical information available for everybody that can pass along and can be
shared in real time on the Blogosphere, Web Sites and Social Networks in accordance with “Web 2.0 rules”.
Fig. 3: Statistical information that propagates throughout the blogosphere
Fig. 4: Statistic table embedded in a web page
More ways to share data
I wrote a while ago a plugin for Wordpress, the most popular CMS in use today. (202 Million
Worldwide, 62.8 Million US) The following image show us how it's possible using a Wordpress
plugin to put the same table on the sidebar of a web site.
Fig. 5: Table on the sidebar using a Wordpress plugin
Fig. 6: Wordpress plugin list in the Administration Panel
In this case, after downloading the plugin and after activated it, it's possible to decide where placing
the widget on the sidebar and how to customize the content using the Wordpress Widgets
Administration Panel. We can insert a municipality code (6 chars) to load municipality data but
also a province code (3 chars) or a region code (2 chars) respectively for provincial data or regional
data, as shown in the following image.
Fig. 7: Wordpress Widgets Administration
Data Sharing could be a big opportunity for Statistical Offfices. In fact, promoting Data Sharing is a way to
make statistics easy to manage for everybody as well as a way to disseminate data promptly, instantly,
directly from producer to consumer.