Participatory GIS is an emergent practice in its own right; developing out of participatory approaches to planning and spatial information and communication management (Rambaldi and Weiner 2004). The practice is the result of a spontaneous merger of Participatory Learning and Action ( PLA) methods with Geographic Information Technologies and Systems (GIT&S). PGIS combines a range of geo-spatial information management tools and methods such as sketch maps, Participatory 3D Models (P3DM), aerial photographs, satellite imagery, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to represent peoples’ spatial knowledge in the forms of virtual or physical, 2 or 3 dimensional maps used as interactive vehicles for spatial learning, discussion, information exchange, analysis, decision making and advocacy. Participatory GIS implies making GIT&S available to disadvantaged groups in society in order to enhance their capacity in generating, managing, analysing and communicating spatial information.
PGIS practice is geared towards community empowerment through measured, demand-driven, user-friendly and integrated applications of geo-spatial technologies. GIS-based maps and spatial analysis become major conduits in the process. A good PGIS practice is embedded into long-lasting spatial decision-making processes, is flexible, adapts to different socio-cultural and bio-physical environments, depends on multidisciplinary facilitation and skills and builds essentially on visual language. The practice integrates several tools and methods whilst often relying on the combination of ‘expert’ skills with socially differentiated local knowledge. It promotes interactive participation of stakeholders in generating and managing spatial information and it uses information about specific landscapes to facilitate broadly-based decision making processes that support effective communication and community advocacy.
If appropriately utilized, the practice could exert profound impacts on community empowerment, innovation and social change. More importantly, by placing control of access and use of culturally sensitive spatial information in the hands of those who generated them, PGIS practice could protect traditional knowledge and wisdom from external exploitation.
Source for citation: Rambaldi G., Kwaku Kyem A. P.; Mbile P.; McCall M. and Weiner D. 2006. Participatory Spatial Information Management and Communication in Developing Countries. EJISDC 25, 1, 1-9