The term Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) was coined at the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) Workshop, Orono, Maine, July 10-13, 1996, to cover a specific geographical context (North America), and for a particular purpose – how GIS technology could support public participation for variety of possible applications.
While many changes have occurred both in terms of available GI systems, technologies, and processes, the term has rolled over without action being taken to find a more appropriate one, better embodying the thrust and extent of the practice.
According to Doug Aberley and Renee Sieber Public Participation GIS …

  • Is an interdisciplinary research, community development and environmental stewardship tool grounded in value and ethical frameworks that promote social justice, ecological sustainability, improvement of quality of life, redistributive justice, nurturing of civil society, etc;
  • Is validly practiced in streams relating to place (urban, rural), organizational context (community-based organization, grassroots group, non-governmental organization, local government, regional government, state/provincial government), or sector (transportation, watershed restoration, food security, housing, public health, etc.);
  • Endeavors to involve youth, elders, women, First Nations and other segments of society that are traditionally marginalized from decision making processes;
  • Is both functionally and holistically based, that is, can be applied to help solve problems in specific sectors of society, and/or to provide broader integrated assessments of place-based or bioregional identity;
  • Is best applied via partnerships developed between individuals, communities, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, religious or faith-based institutions, governments and the private sector;
  • Endeavours to always include a strong capacity building dimension in its application;
  • Is linked to social theories and methods originating in planning, anthropology, geography, social work and other social sciences;
  • Is linked to applied qualitative research tools including participatory action research, grounded research, participatory rural appraisal, etc;
  • Is a tool that is best applied in a wide variety of manual, digital, 2-and 3-dimensional formats and data types (digital, oral, image);
  • Enables public access to cultural, economic and biophysical data generated by governments, private sector organizations and academic institutions;
  • Supports a range of interactive approaches from face-to-face contact to web-based applications;
  • Promotes development of software that is accessible to broad acquisition and ease of use;
  • Supports lifelong learning of its practitioners in a manner that helps to bridge the divides that exist between cultures, academic disciplines, gender and class;
  • Is about sharing the challenges and opportunities of place and situation in a transparent and celebratory

Source for citation: Doug Aberley and Renee Sieber. 2002 Developed at First International PPGIS Conference held by URISA at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, July 20-22, 2002