The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia carries on its statistics programme as an integral part of its work on economic and social development. The statistics programme is aimed at developing and expanding capacities in national statistical systems, and in particular ensuring production of relevant, reliable, timely and sound data by countries in the Arab region.
Traditionally, data were published as hard copy statistical bulletins, which was not very practical for the users. Even PDF versions uploaded to the website proved to be not the most adequate solution, and therefore about 10 years ago the ESCWA Statistics Division decided to take the first step towards modernization, and to make data available online as Excel files accompanied by explanatory text, graphs and charts in the PDF format. However this was originally intended as an interim solution.
The Statistics Division at ESCWA tried to revive the ESCWA Statistical Information System (ESIS) that was designed before the Division’s establishment in 2008, and never completely implemented. From the first attempts the ESIS showed rather significant drawbacks. Firstly, it did not allow users to store structured data as multi-dimensional time series, as ESIS was intended only for simple time series. Secondly, all data saved in the database at any time were by default available to all users, including external ones. In addition to that, ESIS did not allow converting data and its interface was rather unsophisticated.