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Gi-based applications on public authorities

Public participation in the planning process requires well-developed communication between the authorities and the public. With the growth of the Internet, this communication has been enriched with the properties of the new digital media. This seems a great advantage for the public as well as the authorities, who see e- government as a means of offering more service to more people, while at the same time decreasing the number of employees in the administration [1]. In Denmark, much attention has been focused on e-government and digital management at all administrative levels of society during the last few years. This includes online access to a variety of GI-based services, with the aim of enabling citizens to service themselves online, based on the geographic information offered. However, can we expect that a citizen who has no relevant professional basis for understanding the concept of geographic information should be able to use GI-based web services? Experiences gained from teaching surveyors and geography students about GI and GIS suggest that the concepts of geographic information (as opposed to maps), and the idea of layered information, are not intuitively understood. On the other hand, these Internet-based services are rather popular among those who have become regular users, such as farmers (e.g., applying for subsidies or for permission to increase their livestock), agricultural consultants, and property handlers. Unlike the average citizen, these regular users have some professional knowledge that enables them to comprehend the substance and context of the information in the interactive map. But the GI-based applications are meant as a service for all the citizens of the region, and they are — more or less — meant to replace the personal-based service. Earlier studies suggest that map-based services are popular among the majority of users, as long as they are not too complex or too technically demanding. Improving the usability of the GI-based web services obviously requires knowledge about the nonprofessional user’s understanding and use of GI. This chapter discusses the need for investigations in this field and the methods relevant for such investigations.

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