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Fall 2002
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Mapping Real-Time Election Results a Big Success in the Netherlands

  click to see enlargement
To improve reporting of the 2002 Netherlands elections, a joint NOVA-NOS Web site named Nederland Kiest (meaning "the Netherlands elects") www.nederlandkiest.nl was created.

Gradually the screens of thousands of computers, showing a map of the Netherlands, were filled with different colors representing the scores of political parties that took part in the Dutch national elections in May 2002. After one hour, it was clear that a landslide took place and Dutch politics would never be the same again. A new right-wing party had won the national elections, which over the past years had never shown spectacular changes. For the first time, a late TV news show used GIS software to present the outcome of the elections on TV and its Web site. The success was remarkable: instead of dull figures, with GIS maps the public immediately grasped the changes in the political landscape. This way of working set an important example for Dutch media, and one can safely conclude that GIS software will be used more in the future by Dutch newsrooms.

A Cooperation of Media Forces

NOVA is a daily news program covering current news issues. The Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS or Netherlands Broadcasting Corporation) is a cooperation of the public broadcasting organizations. With approximately 700 employees, NOS produces programs for radio, television, and the Internet. Its programs are objective, reliable, and almost always live. To improve efficiency during the reporting of the 2002 elections in the Netherlands, the NOS Internet editorial offices and NOVA decided to start cooperating at an early stage.

A joint Web site named Nederland Kiest (meaning "the Netherlands elects") at www.nederlandkiest.nl was initiated. Radio and TV advertising, as well as announcements during the live election night broadcasts, promoted the Web site. The number of hits was extremely high during the election, peaking at more than 100,000 per minute.

Hanneke Bouwsema, NOVA Internet Department coordinator, says, "We initiated the project ourselves. We received many enthusiastic responses. This type of cooperation is rather special, as cooperation between public broadcasting companies is not always easy."

The Nederland Kiest site shows how synergy between television (NOVA) and the Internet (NOS) can work. "The Internet has more options than television," says Bouwsema.

click to see enlargementSietske van Weerden, chief editor of NOS Online, says, "The Internet is not merely supplementary, but a self-service tool for the general public. These days people will consult the Internet before watching the news on television. The Internet is increasingly turning into a news medium."

Then the question was how to make full use of the opportunities of the Internet and the Web site. The answer was quickly found: GIS.

Through contact with Peter Verwey, lecturer of Digital Journalism at the Utrecht School of Journalism, NOVA contacted Esri Nederland B.V. with the intent of providing support for the national elections in the shape of digital maps. The Dutch national news agency, Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANP), would provide the electoral data that the constituencies themselves would supply on the night of the election. The basic map of the political landscape originated from the Dutch Topographic Service (Topografische Dienst, Emmen).

Esri Nederland wrote a program that converted the results of the elections from the ANP into digital maps. The architecture employed ArcIMS and ArcSDE. Topics, such as largest party in each constituency and the turnout percentage, were defined as map services on the basis of colors and bands. As soon as the results for a constituency became available, they were processed in the database.

Verwey says, "There is much interest in GIS now, and Esri Nederland and the Utrecht School of Journalism will cooperate to train journalists in applying GIS technology in day-to-day reporting and in special research projects."

The NOVA project is implemented with support from the Topografische Dienst, Emmen; the Netherlands; and Hewlett-Packard Nederland. For more information, contact Corné Moerland, project manager, Nederland Kiest (e-mail: C.Moerland@esrinl.com) or Jan Willem van Eck, marketing manager (e-mail: jw.vaneck@esrinl.com), both of Esri Nederland.

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