The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Faculty of Construction and Environment Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics LSGI4321 Geo-information for Urban and Regional Studies Individual Paper 09134610d Tang Shuk LingTopicThe idea behind Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) is theempowerment and inclusion of marginalized populations, who have little voice in thepublic arena, through GIT and public engagement. Critically examine theapplicability of PPGIS in Hong Kong.IntroductionIn recent years, with the development of public participation spirit and moderninformation technologies, Geographic Information Sciences has developed PublicParticipation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) to encourage publicparticipation in public policy making processes. With the use of GeographicInformation System (GIS) as interface between stakeholders, PPGIS incorporateslocal knowledge from the grass-root with spatial information. All in all, since thevalue of PPGIS is the dialogue between “humanities and technology”, PPGIS shouldintegrate GIS technology and humanities and social science.
PPGISThe term Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) was firstappeared at the meetings of the National Center for Geographic Information andAnalysis (NCGIA) in 1996. It is easy to understand that PPGIS can be divided intotwo parts: public participation and GIS.To begin with, Geographic Information System (GIS) is defined as ahardware/software system for the storage, management, and selective retrievalcapabilities of geo-referenced data. (David, 1992) There are five components of GIS:hardware, software, data, people and method. Hardware is the computer system whichwould run the GIS software while GIS software would perform the functions ofstoring, analyzing and displaying the spatial information. ArcGIS is one of thecommon use GIS software. Data including spatial and non-spatial information may bethe key component of GIS. The digital map is the fundamental data for GIS and theGIS would integrate the spatial with non-spatial information for future analysis.People refer to those GIS users including professionals and those people use GIS foranalysis and other purposes.However, PPGIS is not just only about GIS, but also adopts participation spirit. Publicparticipation in decision making process is very important. The inclusive participationand the devolution of decision making power are the main characteristics of publicparticipation. Different from the traditional expert-top-down approach of GIS, local-bottom-up approach is employed with public participation. Indeed, PPGIS is abottom-up approach through local citizens’ concerns and knowledge can be presentedby utilizing GIS as a tool.(Harris et al., 1995) Not only professionals are responsible
to make decision, but also the general public or more specific group, i.e. thestakeholders. A stakeholder is defined as “an individual or group influenced by – andwith an ability to significantly impact (either directly or indirectly) – the topic area ofinterest” (Engi and Glicken, 1995). Stakeholders should have the right to contributetheir ideas and express their opinion on the authoritys plan since they will be directlyaffected by the plan. PPGIS allows participants to share their ideas using GISincluding acquiring the spatial data and perform spatial analysis such as buffering,networking, overlaying and so on. PPGIS can be used by the general public especiallythe stakeholders, which is very different from the traditional expert-driven GISmethodology. Increasing the power of the lower-power group (i.e. grassrootscommunity and marginalized group) is the core idea of PPGIS: empowerment.Furthermore, one of the differences between GIS and PPGIS is that PPGIS focusmuch more on the “process”. In the decision making process, all stakeholders try tocoordinate, cooperate and collaborate with each other through learning,communication and compromise. Finally, consensus can be achieved.Key Elements of PPGISThere are four key elements for PPGIS: participation, usability, visualization andinteractivity. Doubtless, participation is one of the most important elements that affectthe implementation of PPGIS. However, the technical parts of system design are alsocrucial to the implementation of PPGIS. Steinmann et al. (2004) argue thatinteractivity, usability, and visualization are the three most important sets of criteriaon the basis of which PPGIS evaluations should be undertaken.Interactivity implies a response to the messages or behaviors between GIS users andthe computer server (Steinmann et al. 2004). Compared with the traditional GIS
methodology, PPGIS provides participants the opportunities to express their views.The system should be able to facilitate communication and information exchangebetween the public and the authority instantaneously.The term ‘usability’ means the ability of a user to utilize GIS and is usually measuredfrom the user’s point of view (O’Looney, 1997). The usability of PPGIS will affectthe participation since the more usable system ensures that different people canparticipate in the decision making process easily. Therefore, a user-friendly PPGISinterface is one of the basic requirements for the system design. Moreover, the systemdesign should be case-dependence and user-centered. In other words, the systemshould be designed based on the applied issues. It aims at allowing feasibility use forparticipants in order to achieve the goal of improving participation.Visualization refers to the method of interpreting the maps and data in visual terms.Good visualization makes the data and maps more readable and understandable.Visualization of 3D urban areas has been increasingly used in recent years. 3D urbanvisualization provides a virtual environment that a user can interact with an urbanspace. Therefore, visualization of 3D urban areas can be used as a communication toolin public meetings to facilitate public participation in planning and designdevelopment review. In turn, the public can provide better feedback that leads tobetter decision making.Doubtless, participation is a very important component of PPGIS. The idea behindPPGIS is the empowerment and inclusion of marginalized populations who have littlevoice on the public arena. Arnstein (1969) defines citizen participation as “theredistribution of power that enables the have-not citizens, presently excluded from thepolitical and economic processes, to be deliberately included in the future.” In
addition, Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation (Arnstein, 1969) frames theparticipation in terms of citizen power. The devolution of decision making powerallows the grass root have the power to make decision which is good to them. It ismuch more different from the traditional top-down approach.PPGIS ApplicationPPGIS has been widely used in different area including environment impactassessment, land appraisal, land reform, urban planning, and natural resourcemanagement and so on. One of the PPGIS application examples is nuclear wastedisposal site selection in Britain. Steve Carver, Andy Evans and Richard Kingston(2002) from the School of Geography in University of Leeds used PPGIS to involvecommunity members to locate a nuclear waste disposal site in Britain. It is a web-based approach, using the internet to inform the participant of the situation and therole they play in the decision making process. The users can experience in the use ofGIS and digital map data to address a substantive application area. The systemintegrates communication between stakeholders and methodological (data handlingand analytical) capabilities of GIS.PPGIS in Hong KongFour types of institutional location for PPGIS delivery are identified: nonprofitorganizations, universities, government agencies, and private companies. (Weiner etal., 2002) However, most of the PPGIS applications are implemented by governmentin Hong Kong.In Hong Kong, Public Participation Geographic Information Systems are mainly usedin land use planning studies. The Planning Department (2010) has implementedPPGIS in the Feasibility Study on the Enhancement of the Lau Fau Shan Rural
Township and Surrounding Areas.Different from the conventional consultation channels, an e-engagement platform isdeveloped to encourage public participation. The system mainly provides aninteractive digital environment of satellite images/maps of Google Map overlaid withthe planning concepts and proposals so that the general public could effectively andconveniently visualize the planned future of the study area. The public can easilyunderstand the planning concepts and proposals. Thus, they can give more usefulviews to the proposals.This PPGIS application shows some of the key elements of PPGIS. First of all, itshows a good visualization since it visualized the proposed plan with the use ofGoogle Map. The general public can have a better understanding of the planning anddesign proposals without any professional GIS skills. Furthermore, the system designis also user-friendly and the system interface is clearly classified. However, forinteractivity and participation parts, there still can be some improvement for thePPGIS implementation. The system cannot facilitate a sufficient communicationbetween the authority and the public since traditional consultation methods such aspublic forums and exhibitions were the main parts of the community engagementactivities. Although there was an e-engagement channel, the authority and the publiccould not exchange information and ideas and make responses instantaneously. Thus,the participation is limited.Applicability of PPGIS in Hong KongTo examine the applicability of PPGIS in Hong Kong, several considerations shouldbe taken account.The first thing that has to be considered is the GIS technology level and
acknowledgement in Hong Kong. Kingston (2002) asserted that in designing andimplementing a PPGIS, the issues of GIS and IT understandability need to becarefully considered and addressed. As mentioned before, GIS is the main componentof PPGIS. The GIS technology level in Hong Kong is adequate to implement PPGIS.However, not much many Hong Kong people really understand GIS. They may thinkGIS is something about maps. Actually, GIS is not only about maps but also aboutspatial information. This misunderstanding of GIS may hinder the development ofPPGIS.Another thing should be considered is the stakeholders’ awareness of the issue. Sinceparticipation is crucial to PPGIS, stakeholders’ awareness affects the participationlevel. The greater the stakeholders’ awareness, the greater opportunity they participateand give feedbacks. Therefore, raising Hong Kong people’s awareness to social issuesis one of the key to successful PPGIS.The stakeholders’ ability of reading map is also our consideration when implementingPPGIS. The public should have a basic map reading skill so they can utilize GIS.Generally, Hong Kong people’s ability of reading map is adequate for PPGISimplementation. They usually can recognize the location and understand the map sothey can give information or comment with spatial data. However, the oldergeneration may not be able to read map so they cannot utilize the component GIS inPPGIS.One of the main considerations is the communication between all stakeholders. Oneof the components of PPGIS is empowerment which means the devolution of decisionof decision making process. Different people with different thinking and values havethe equal rights to express their view on different issues. To achieve consensus,communication, discussion and debates are necessary. There should be enough
communication and debates for all stakeholders for PPGIS. The communication anddebate should be sensible and peaceful. Otherwise, conflict among the public may bearoused even though reaching consensus on the discussed issue.Finally, the time available should be considered when implemented PPGIS. There canbe a timely treatment of public input. At the beginning, there may be largerdifferences between different people’s cognitive and thus affect the progress. Muchmore time is needed for communication and debate in order to seek the contest.Afterwards, stakeholders gradually understand the stand, ideas, professional and localknowledge of each other. PPGIS may not be suitable for every land use planningissues in Hong Kong.ConclusionTo conclude, with the advantages of public participation, the obstacle from theopposition can be avoided once consensus is achieved and the support from the publicis increased through Public Participation Geographic Information Systems. With theuse of GIS technology, even the public can more easily understand the spatial analysisand visualize the effect of the discussed issue. Therefore, it is worth for PPGIS takenplace in different planning issues in Hong Kong. More academic studies and non-government organization can apply PPGIS in order to increase public participation.ReferenceArnstein, S. R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the AmericanInstitute of Planners.David A. Hastings (1992). Geographic Information Systems: A Tool for GeoscienceAnalysis and Interpretation.
Engi, D. and Glicken, J. (1995). The Vital Issues Process: Strategic Planning for aChanging World, World SAND95-0845, May 1995, Albuquerque, NM: SandiaNational Laboratories.Feasibility Study on the Enhancement of the Lau Fau Shan Rural Township andSurrounding Areas (2010). Retrieved June 25, 2010, from the Planning Department ofHKSAR website:http://www.pland.gov.hk/pland_en/p_study/prog_s/LauFauShan05/area_e.htmlHarris, T., Weiner, D. and Levin, R. (1995). “Pursuing social goals throughparticipatory geographic information systems: Redressing South Africa’s historicalpolitical ecology”, in Pickles, J. (ed.), Ground Truth: The Social Implications ofGeographic Information Systems, New York: Guilford.Kingston, Richard (2002). The Role of e-government and Public Participation in thePlanning Process. Paper presented at the XVI AESOP Congress, 10-14 July, 2002.Volos, Greece.O’Looney, John (1997). Beyond Maps: GIS and Decision Making in LocalGovernment. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association.Steinmann, Renate, Alenka Krek, and Thomas Blaschke (2004). Analysis of OnlinePublic Participatory GIS Applications with Respect to the Differences between the USand Europe. Paper published in the proceedings of Urban Data ManagementSymposium’04, 27-29 October, Chioggia, Italy.Steve Carver, Andy Evans and Richard Kingston (2002). Exploring environmentaldecision making using Internet GIS: Public participation in locating a nuclear wastedisposal site. Retrieved 2002, from the University of Leeds, the Centre for
Computational Geography website:http://www.ccg.leeds.ac.uk/teaching/nuclearwaste/Weiner, D., Harris, T. M., & Craig, W. J. (2002). Community Participation andGeographical Information Systems. CRC Press.