CITY PRESENTATION INITIATIVES ON THE INTERNET

1. Introduction

The key subject of our group was: "Which initiatives are currently existing on the internet, where cities and/or regions present themselves?"

For our research work on the internet we entered the program via the www-starting points or keyed in an URL directly. Via "www-info", the www-starting points led us to "information by subject" and "web servers by directory". With regard to the first-mentioned we focused on "geography" and "culture", the last-mentioned consist of a list of countries.

The faster option was, however, to key in an URL directly. The URL we used was the following: <http://www.city.net/countries.>.

2. Practical Experience and Suggestions

Much to our surprise we found that in contrast to America, European city presentations on the internet are exclusively limited to tourism and cultural issues. We did not find any data concerning the environment, social affairs or the infrastructure, apart from [www.spb.su/bw in St. Petersburg, Russia].

From the e-mail address we discovered that the data had not been entered by those authorities and institutions responsibs and institutions responsible for city info. The information in question had been supplied by individuals and university institutions who drew on travel guides and similar publications as their sources of information.

As a consequence, the following issues, such as the source, quality, updating and struture of the data as well as the language in which they were written, have to be thoroughly discussed.

The fact that the authors are not involved in any commercial use of the city they compile has a negative impact , topicality and user-friendly structuring of the data material and thus can prove counter-productive by creating effects that are bad for citymarketing.

In our opinion, a vital condition for efficient citymarketing is that imformation entry should be coordinated and supported by a supervisor. For the user, this would mean more efficient work with the application (search for specific data) and it would enhance its appeal on the internet. Especially in tourism, multilingual data presentation is a must.

3. Preview

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Its interactively - a feature which is currently not put to any practical use - would give the internet system certain advantages over other media and systems of communication in that it would give the citizens direct access to thetizens direct access to the services offered by the municipalities.

To achieve this, the data material would have to be presented and processed in a professional manner. At this point, the allocation of e-mail-addresses is, however, not handled in a satisfactory way. Unfortunately, this is a pre-condition for well-functioning interactivity. One example would be the billing of services, where any misuse of e-mail-addresses has to be precluded.

In addition, interactivity calls for an efficient distribution network, thus keeping the input of time and money for the professional user as low as possible.

In conclusion we would like to point out that not all commercial transactions seem to be feasible on the internet. The nature of this open communication system evidently provides possibilities for data misuse. Moreover, there is the question of how data found on the internet can be assessed or how their validity and reliablility can be measured.

4. Specific Situations in the Individual Countries

In accordance with the status quo on the internet, the countries are divided into the following three groups: Europe, North America, Other Countries.

4.1. Europe

4.1.1. Lack of contents

In view of the political situation of the 90s, we basically have to distinguish between the countries of the former Eastern Bloc and those counter Eastern Bloc and those countries belonging to the Western hemisphere.

4.1.1.1. Eastern Block

Most countries are just beginning to build up the necessary structure and network. This becomes evident if we consider Poland, which has problems with regard to the kind of information it provides.

Slovenia and Slovakia are the exeptions within this bloc. The two countries present themselves through an extensive amount of data which is structured in an exemplary manner.

4.1.1.2. Western Countries

The main difference between these countries consists in what they offer on the internet. In some cases, however, the information structure is a weak point and should therefore not be underestimated.

Some examples of very comprehensively structured city marketing activities can be found in Germany and in the United Kingdom.

As for France, only Paris is covered citymarketingwise. The rest of the information available on France consists of generalized travel tips. Denmark's sole contribution on the internet is a prese the internet is a presentation of its universities.

Thus, both countries can be viewed as negative examples.

4.1.2. Structural Deficits

4.1.2.1. Problems with Communication Lines

Lithuania and Greece are faced with this particular problem. Lithuania, as a former Eastern Bloc country, has to overcome the above-mentioned technological difficulties. As for Greece, its - with regard to internet - unfavourable geographical situation has the following effect: the connection is built up through a branch that terminates in this area, and thus Greece has no access via other servers if communication line bottlenecks occur, in contrast to Germany, which occupies a central geographical position.

4.1.2.2. Hardware Dissemination

In the former COMECON states marketing activities via internet are certainly not as important as in Western industrialized countries. This is all the more understandable if we consider that even Western Europe has yet to see a major commercial breakthrough in this field. The strained economic situation throughout Eastern Europe simply leaves no room for it. Nevertheless, the former communist countries are well aware of the possibilities offered by internet. As it is, a pent-up economic demand calls for a different order of priorities.

Their interest is clearly demonstrated by the rly demonstrated by the fact that they are building up an internet system. But we have to be aware that for economic reasons their priorities necessarily differ from ours.

4.2. North America

Europe has had to face the high standard set by the United States, which is rightfully regarded as a pioneer in this sector. And yet, Europe has proved that it is perfectly able to compete with the United States in this field.

It might be profitable for the old continent to imitate the clear-cut structuring of North America into states/countries, regions and cities. A list of countries with appropriate subdateien would make it much simpler to handle the internet in Europe.

We were unable to detect any marked preference for the fields of culture and tourism in the United States. The status quo could be an indirect consequence of the start the United States has with regates has with regard to the internet, in that it has already developed a more natural access to the medium.

States like Oregon or New York, which obviously cannot be compared with Hawaii as far as tourism is concerned, are presenting themselves in a no less professional manner.

The city of Eugene in Oregon offers information concerning shopping, sports, public facilities, weather conditions and overnight accommodation. Weak points are the incompleteness of hotel information as well as the fact that it is impossible to get in touch with the municipal authorities.

The trouble with New York is that different portions of the data material have to be accessed via different access levels and that e-mail addresses, at least one of them, are incorrect. Apart from this, the business aspect is covered in a professional manner in the form of a conference calendar for the entire North American hemisphere and up-to-the-minute business information. The whole is completed by coverage of sports and leisure activities (surf news including specific wind and weather statistics).

States like Arkansas, to cite just one example, are represented by a single city, in this case Little Rock. The information content of the data material supplied seems however more tems however more than scarce, featuring nothing but a number of shopping malls, places of interest and sightseeing tours. Additional information can be accessed through an e-mail address.

Hawaii presents a special case. On the one hand, there is an electronic travel guide, which has in all probability been fed into the system by a private individual and on the other hand we find commercial data concerning administration, business, legislation, tourism, industry, landscape and weather conditions, which are, however, only available in the form of statistics.

There are also a calendar of events covering a whole year and 75 pictures, which the user can call up (promotion material). Both items are completed by an e-mail address.

Among the specific services provided by tourist areas we should like to mention that Colorado ski resorts are offering partly multilingual information as well as possibilities for interaction.

In the northernnmost state, Alaska, the appeal of the supplied data material is unfortunately considerably weakened by the absence of e-mail addresses.

In conclusion, I would like to mention states such as Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, etc. which cannot be accessed, although they do figure in the list of countries.

The increased presence of universities on the internet is due to the rnet is due to the fact that in contrast to the European practice these educational facilites are financed by private business in the United States.

4.3. Other Countries

This group mainly consists of cities situated in states or regions with highly developed economies. With regard to citymarketing, a comparison of the states and regions does, however, not reveal a homogeneous picture. There are some shining examples, while other cities are non-existent. If we regard, f.i., Japan, we see that Tokyo is not represented at all, while Sapporo is presented in full detail.

A similar situation can be found in Latin America, where we get nothing but pictures of Brasilia, whereas the material on Lima contains history, events und maps in addition to the pictures.

In India, Australia and Israel only the public relations activities of Bangalore, Sidney and Jerusalem can be termed outstanding. All other regions or cities provide only poor information or none at all.

As a shining exception we would like to mention Singapore with its interactive tour guide.

The Singapore Official Guide, issued by the Singapore Tour by the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (STPB), offers a possibility for feedback.

5. Summary

To sum up it can be said that the absence of general rules prevents the emergence of unified standards. Consequently, the information currently available in the field of citymarketing entails a high degree of uncertainty for the user with regard to the expressiveness, scope, correctness, etc. of the data material. An encoded, specially marked information package offered alongside any semiprofessional and/or grey information literature would constitute an ideal base for a compelling presentation of regions or cities on the internet system. In this contex it would be important to bundle these bits and pieces of information and analyse the whole for weak points in order to maximize efficiency and bring about positive acceptance by internet users. The ultimate goal should be an analysis that ensures adequate line capacities, easy and uncomplicated handling, asufficient number of accurate addresses, easy-to-use interactivity, multilingualism and interdisciplinary topics.