Exploring the usability of PPGIS among older adults: challenges and opportunities

Sarah Gottwald*, Tiina E. Laatikainen, Marketta Kyttä

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


The Internet provides a new source of information and a new discussion platform for public participation in planning processes. As geographic information systems (GIS) are an essential part of planning practice, equal access to public participation GIS (PPGIS) is crucial for successful stakeholder collaboration. Unfortunately, people with restricted access to computers, limited Internet skills, and poor map literacy could face potential exclusion. Although the older adults’ age groups show the strongest growth among Internet users, their general Internet skills remain limited compared to those of younger age groups. Furthermore, little previous research has been conducted on older adults’ usage of PPGIS, as current studies focus mainly on older adults’ use of the Internet in general or (passive) web maps in particular; PPGIS usability studies generally target a wider audience. In this qualitative and descriptive study, we examine older adults’ experience with a PPGIS survey and implement the findings into a final research survey design. The findings support previous results from other Internet or web map usability studies with older adults while, in addition, displaying similarities to the outcomes of general PPGIS usability studies, especially regarding cognitive abilities. Studying older adults draws attention to a vulnerable but growing Internet user group. As other age groups face similar challenges, we suggest that using older adults as a ‘test group’ for PPGIS usability could help improve the experience for the wider public.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Early online date5 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • aging population
  • digital divide
  • public participation
  • Public participation GIS
  • usability


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