Leaves, pebbles, and chalk: Building a public participation GIS in New Delhi, India

Richard Kingston, Lorlene Hoyt, Renu Khosla, Claudia Canepa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology has customarily been regarded as complicated and costly and a technology that is primarily used by experts to carry out complex planning projects. During the 1990s, major criticisms regarding the technology's inaccessibility and elitist qualities triggered the Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) movement which aims to develop alternative systems that democratize the use of the technology, create easy access to government-generated data, and incorporate local knowledge. Central to the PPGIS movement is the belief that GIS is a powerful tool for facilitating collaborative planning processes and empowering citizens to influence planning and policy-making. PPGIS is an acronym used to describe the many different types of participatory-based geographic information systems being implemented in countries throughout the world. Scholars agree that such systems are created locally and influenced by the social and political contexts in which they reside. In this paper, we argue that PPGIS is both a computer-based information system and an interactive human process which facilitates collaborative planning efforts, but that its ability to effectively empower participants is largely determined by the local context - that is, the social and political relations that link or divide individuals, groups, and institutions. This paper examines a PPG IS initiative to create more inclusive planning processes for water service delivery and infrastructure in informal settlements throughout New Delhi. To frame an examination of the nexus between a PPGIS initiative and its ability to effectively empower participants, this paper answers the following questions: What types of data collection methods allow traditionally marginalized residents - like women, youth, and people who are illiterate - to communicate their knowledge and express their concerns about a place? How can community members use local knowledge to leverage improved public services? What are the barriers and opportunities associated with sustaining a city-wide PPGIS? Copyright © 2005 by The Society of Urban Technology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJournal of Urban Technology|J. Urban Technol.
PublisherPrentice Hall
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


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