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Commerce Department operates online data business.

Although there is a vast amount of information available on the Internet, not all of it is reliable. However, since 1985 the Department of Commerce has been providing authoritative business, economic and trade information. STAT-USA, at http://www.statusa.gov, provides daily economic news, such as Treasury statements and exchange rates; frequently requested statistic releases, such as the gross domestic product; "State of the Nation," economic news from all federal statistical agencies including the Bureau of Economic Analysis; and "GLOBUS," a vast collection of leads for companies of all sizes wanting to expand internationally. STAT-USA is especially useful to CPAs

* In small firms without access to expensive news services.

* Who need quick, accurate financial information for management consulting engagements.

* Who work in small companies and are relied on to obtain and coordinate the business's financial information needs.

Paul Christy, STAT-USA's deputy director, told the Journal that "anecdotal evidence indicates we have a lot of small business users." STAT-USA has a "Real-life Uses" page describing how various companies--including one with just three employees--used STAT-USA information to build their businesses. The Web site provides these companies with business leads and market information. STAT-USA receives about 150,000 hits each week.

Tax dollars not at work

Although many government agencies have World Wide Web sites, this one is run like a business. Christy emphasized no tax dollars are spent on STAT-USA; it is funded entirely by subscription. Although users can explore much of the Web site for free, the large majority of the information is locked away for subscribers. Prices range from $150 per year for a single user to $15,000 for a large corporation that wants to purchase access for over 250 employees. There are special educational institution rates.

Easy for the technophobic

The site is especially useful for novices, because of its ease of use: There is a "Customer Pledge" page clearly guaranteeing the services provided and describing problem resolution policies. Prospective users can go to http:// www.stat-usa.gov/testdrive.html for a sampling of the site's services before committing to a subscription. There are few graphics, so the pages load quickly.

Virtually every page has STAT-USA's e-mail address (stat-usa@doc. gov), and there is a "Say Hello to Our Humans" page that details technical support, including a recently beefed-up faxback system. Help menus are available. The site hints that Mosaic or Netscape Web browsers are best without actually endorsing any one product, but in a brief test Internet Explorer also worked well.

Those who want to learn more but are still anxious about going online can call STAT-USA at 800-782-8872.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 1, 1996
Words:432
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