Stats NZ to let users customise data over web

Within the next few months it may be possible to get data customised to your own requirements from Statistics New Zealand's website.

Within the next few months it may be possible to get data customised to your own requirements from Statistics New Zealand’s website.

The government agency has applied for funding to implement Canadian software developer Beyond 20/20’s web data server, says dissemination general manager David Archer.

“People will be able to look at a huge table of data and then select what they need — they’ll be able to use a selection menu to reduce hundreds of thousands of data cells to a few hundred.”

The census data could be used by companies for market research purposes, but Archer hopes it will have wider application, such as by community groups and schools.

Statistics NZ has applied for government funding — a “six figure sum”, Archer says — which, if granted, will allow free access to the service, which could then be made available immediately. If funding isn’t granted, “we’d look at a five-year site licence of $4000 to $5000”, says Archer, and the service would need to be packaged on a user-pays basis. The decision on funding will be known by May.

An experimental version of the service, relating to 1996 census data, is available for testing, says Archer.

The Beyond 20/20 package has been available on CD for some time but Statistics NZ’s will be one of the world’s first web applications.

When asked if the move was part of a policy change to make statistics more freely available, Archer called it a “progression”.

“We’ve been doing it for the past two to three years, using the web as a delivery tool to make things free. If people are prepared to help themselves to it and don’t expect us to extract it for them, we won’t charge.”

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