The Internet may make the world seem much smaller, when doing business with someone in Australia is as easy as doing business with someone in Acton. But the business practises of countries round the world are as diverse as attitudes, infrastructures and cultures.
While the differences are sometimes shocking, they can often create business opportunities. The Internet is one of the best ways to find information on places you'd like to visit and places so remote you may never have a chance to visit them. This month's listing looks at sites that tell you a little more about the world in which you live.
Under the country information heading, you'll find facts on countries, ranging from various climates around the globe to which countries don't have access to potable running water.
The environment section covers international organisations that are working to make the world more environmentally safe, as well as information on environmental issues in the UK and how to find out about legislation that may affect your business.
The site from the World Wide Fund for Nature is both easy to use and packed with useful information and links. The European Recycling page is useful to both business and home Internet users who want to be more green.
Finally, the weather - be it something to talk about when you're stuck on a train, long-range forecasts to help plan outdoor events or a quick summary so you know what to pack for a business trip, you'll find it all on the Internet. Yahoo Weather is simple to use and covers most of the world, while Online Weather provides straight-forward access to information for most of the UK.
-Atlapedia Online; www.atlapedia.com
Although the rest of this site doesn't look as slick as the opening page, it has lots of useful, general information about countries - certainly enough for the casual traveller.
-CIA Publications; www.odci.gov/cia/publications/pubs.html
The CIA World Factbook may spring to mind when you think of the CIA, but this page provides links to other useful information, including a regional atlas of the Balkans, a handbook of international economic statistics and information on members of foreign governments.
-CIA World Factbook; www.odci.gov/cia/publications/nsolo/wfb-all.htm
This is one of the most well-known sites in this category, and one of the best. It's comprehensive, with information on territories as well as countries. It now sports a graphical interface as well as text-based links. You can download all the text as an RTF file for reference. It's an essential source of reference for businesses, or just to satisfy your curiosity.
-Decision Web World Atlas; decisionweb.com/dw/atlas/atlas.html
This site is a map-based system, allowing viewers to zoom in on countries round the world and look at lists of the major resources on the Web that provide more information about them.
-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; www.oecd.org
The organisation's site provides a wealth of information, some of which can be downloaded as Acrobat documents. There are charts and tables showing how comparisons are made between different countries, many of which can be downloaded as Excel files.
-Planet Earth; www.nosc.mil/planet_earth
Planet Earth is a virtual library that provides links to sites around the world, including links for most major countries.
This is not a great example of Web design, but it's useful nonetheless. This site has a comprehensive list of the heads of government of every country in the world. It includes historical information on countries and details of major international organisations such as the Arab League and the Organisation of African Unity.
-United Nations (UN); www.un.org
This site contains information on everything you have ever wanted to know about the United Nations, including online access to some of the UN's reports and statistics, such as health figures for each of the member countries.
-World Atlas; www.teachersoft.com/Library/ref/atlas/homepage.htm
This atlas provides information on a range of topics, including international groups and agencies. It contains a short summary of information about various countries, including sections on population, industries and other useful topics.
-World Bank Public Information Centre(PIC); www.worldbank.org/html/pic/PIC.html
A wide range of reports on different aspects of the World Bank's work are available from the PIC, including information such as reports on poverty in different countries and assessments of market sectors around the world.
-World Health Organisation; www.who.ch
The World Health Organisation's site provides information on its work. Of particular use to travellers is the report on international travel and health, which includes vaccination requirements for most countries.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - UK
-Business Geographics; www.geoweb.co.uk
This site has links to a wealth of information on census returns. Registration is necessary for detailed information, but you can sign on as a guest to see the type of data available, which includes details on population breakdowns based on your postcode. Potentially a very useful tool for businesses.
-Office for National Statistics; www.emap.com/ons
This site contains a selection of public information from the UK statistical office, including social survey summaries, trends in public finance and economic updates.
-Socio-Economic Statistics and Analysis Group; www.open.gov.uk/lmsd/lmsdhome.htm
This set of pages provide access to some of the tables from the group's publications, including the monthly Labour Market Statistics and breakdowns of population change.
-Air Quality Bulletins;www.aeat.co.uk/products/centres/netcen/airqual/bulletins/welcome.html
This is the home page for an automatic air quality monitoring service, with up to date information on ozone depletion and carbon monoxide pollution available online. It also contains a pollution forecast.
-Best Environmental Resources; www.ulb.ac.be/ceese/cds.html
This page is essentially an environmental directory with a comprehensive list of links to information designed primarily for European users. The pages referenced are in English, unless another language is specified such as (fr) for French. It covers a wide range of topics such as asbestos poison, world hunger, pesticides and soil erosion to name a few. If you can't find what you want elsewhere, try looking here.
-Environment Agency of England and Wales; www.environment-agency.gov.uk
This site contains a State of the Environment Report and includes online surveys and reports on topics such as how the quality of the environment has changed over 25 years and how it has affected the biological life of rivers and canals in the UK.
-Environment Council; www.envirocom.com/tec
The Environment Council is an independent charity dedicated to protecting Britain's environment through awareness. The site provides information for businesses on how the council can help reach environmental targets. It also contains information on upcoming events and seminars, such as how businesses can cut back on the excessive use of paper in offices.
-Environmental Law; www.igc.apc.org/envlaw
A set of pages that provide access to information on environmental laws around the world. Although there are many useful links, some of them are broken, making it hard to track down certain information.
-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); www.epa.gov
This is a large site from the US Environmental Protection Agency, with a wealth of information on topics including energy conservation, recycling and online access to EPA legislation and publications to help businesses comply with environmental rulings.
-Scottish Environmental Protection Agency; www.sepa.org.uk
The Scottish counterpart to the Environment Agency, this site isn't as comprehensive, but it does contain the summary of the Scottish State of the Environment report.
-The Green Channel; www.greenchannel.com
This is a well-designed site from an environmental consultancy. It includes information on a wide range of topics such as environmental law, policy and research. It also has links to agencies and departments that can provide businesses and individuals with further information. The campaigns and initiatives page has links to a range of useful organisations.
-Friends of the Earth; www.foe.co.uk
This site contains information on a range of topics which include new environmental legislation and the Chemical Release Inventory. If you type in your postcode, the site will provide you with a map of local factories and facts on the chemicals they are emitting.
This is a comprehensive site, largely geared towards the organisation's international campaigns. It contains creative solutions to forcing environmental policy changes, a chat link where users can join discussions about Greenpeace campaigns and the UK Science Pages, which include articles on assessment of environmental risks.
-World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); www.panda.org
WWF aims to reverse the destruction of the world's natural resources through public awareness. The organisation's Web site is well-designed, self-explanatory and contains information on the WWF's campaigns. There is also a weekly BBC Earth report with downloadable full-length videos and a News Room that contains timely news reports, for example, how the recent timber trade in Cameroon effected the villagers' livelihood.
-City of Westminster Environmental Health; www.wcceh.gov.uk
This site contains a daily air pollution reading for central London, plus a useful glossary and summary details of the legislation affecting businesses.
-Middlesborough Borough Council; www-scm.tees.ac.uk/local/airnotes.html
This site has information on air quality, including access to daily reports produced by Middlesborough Council, though the reports don't appear to be updated as often as the site suggests.
-European Recycling; www.tecweb.com/recycle/eurorec.htm
European Recycling's site contains facts and information on recycling in Europe, including classified pages and directories of organisations that can help with your home and business recycling needs.
-World Resource Foundation; www.wrfound.org.uk
This site provides information on other forms of waste management. It includes fact sheets and guides on recycling various materials.
-BBC Weather Centre; www.bbc.co.uk/weather
Although this site doesn't contain actual weather forecasts, it does have useful information on the history of meteorology, the founding of the British Meteorological Office, shipping forecasts and their historical relevance, as well as a weather almanac for the UK and the world.
-European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF); www.ecmwf.int
The ECMWF is supported by 18 countries and provides medium-range weather forecasts covering large areas of the world. Charts can be selected for different forecasts and retrieved as GIF, PNG or PostScript. There's also a comprehensive list of links to other meteorological sites.
-Meteosat Images; www.ccc.nottingham.ac.uk/pub/sat-images/meteosat.html
The site contains live weather images from the Meteosat service to viewers can see how weather patterns change.
-World Meteorological Organisation (WMO); www.wmo.ch
The WMO is a UN agency. The site has links to associated organisations round the world. The satellite activities page is useful for finding images from a range of satellites covering weather conditions and environmental information.
-WWW Virtual Library - Meteorology; www.met.fu-berlin.de/DataSources/MetIndex.html
This site contains a comprehensive set of links to meteorological sites round the world and includes satellite pictures and forecasts.
-Yahoo Weather; www.yahoo.com
This is a comprehensive set of weather pages from Yahoo which allows you to type in the name of a town and retrieve a weekly forecast. There's also access to satellite photographs and movies. Users can request forecasts with temperatures in Fahrenheit as well as Celsius.
-Jersey Met; user.itl.net/~jmet
Jersey Met's site contains weather forecasts for Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey. It is produced by the meteorological office at Jersey airport.
-Sky Weather; www.sky.co.uk/weather/weath.htm
Get today's forecast from Sky TV.
-UK Weather; www.greasby.demon.co.uk/weather/pages
A useful page with a collection of links to live weather information about the British Isles.
-The Weather Channel; www.weather.com
Weather forecasts for each of the US states, including information relevant to business travellers such as delays at the 35 busiest airports.
-USA Today Weather; www.usatoday.com/weather/wfront.htm
This is a well-designed page with an at-a-glance map showing the temperature across the US. It also contains summaries for other countries round the world, with links to satellite pictures.
All the sites in this listing contain valuable information, but if you only have time for a few, we recommend you check out the following three:
-Atlapedia (www.atlapedia.com); Excellent information for world travellers
-Business Geographics (www.geoweb.co.uk); Census information, based on postcodes, for potential businesses
-CIA Publications (www.odci.gov/cia/publications/pubs.html); Great information on members of foreign governments.
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