Society is one of the five main ‘areas of operation’ of ICA and it also offers many interesting research topics from legal issues (including copyright and privacy questions) to ethics, democracy and equity. However, accessibility to cartographic and geographic datasets and GI services is a global problem – not all members of society with an interest or need to access geospatial data are in front of a desktop computer. Access problems for many make it impossible to get information and participate in the developing digital society. Gender problems together with other problems of under-represented groups and equity issues are a continuous topic. Within ICA these topics have been long recognized and from the research point of view it could be interesting to analyse the effects of the development of virtual services in an e-government context on the equity of individuals. Virtual geographies might also develop people’s ability in spatial thinking. Modelling the world, either in an individual or on a collective basis, is one example of social impacts that should be seriously studied.
The heading ‘Society’ covers the collection, handling and representation of many highly varied socio-economic spatial datasets which can be studied using cartography and GI methods. Particularly important areas which are subject to significant contemporary mapping and geospatial data handling activity and research include health, unemployment, literacy, public services, cultures, age and human rights.
As a globally visible and well represented organization, ICA can support and enhance the use of such geospatial datasets in the research of social questions at a global scale. Such approaches need the support and cooperation of national and international institutions and organizations, including national mapping agencies, global non-governmental organizations and world development bodies, including United Nations bureaux.
With the help of the Internet, maps are now distributed to users in very different ways than they were only a decade ago. This has introduced a host of research questions related to use of electronic networks for map distribution and the influence of the medium on the message of maps. In addition, the question arises as to which medium should properly be used in cartography to assure the distribution of maps to the broadest possible audience. Likewise, questions must be asked about copyright and licensing of maps that are distributed through the Internet and how sophisticated online map servers will be maintained. This question has links to SDI as well.
From the audience point of view it is most important that the research results are delivered equally to the users, whoever they may be or wherever they are.