Public participatory GIS in community-based disaster risk reduction

Randall B. Kemp


Natural hazards, such as earthquakes and floods, result in disasters for several reasons. One of the important factors is reducing risk before an incident arises. Such efforts are commonly termed disaster risk reduction (DRR). DRR is the process and engagement of a local community to explore factors of risk and implement methods, practices, and even cultural change, which will reduce the probability that a natural hazard will result in a severe disaster.
In this paper I explore the applicability of public participatory GIS (PPGIS) technologies into DRR efforts. Geographic information systems (GIS) function as an electronic spatial data storage, mapping, and analysis tool compromised of software, hardware, and data inputs. GIS can produce simple maps as well as complicated analysis based on several data sources (or layers). Like standard participatory research methods, PPGIS incorporates end users, research subjects, and researchers into a collaborative environment where GIS are structured under the guidance of both the expert and the novice. One intended result are GIS appropriate to the needs and uses of a given community, with specific attention to the cultural underpinnings of that community.
Introducing PPGIS tools into community-based DRR is not a neutral effort. The information and communication technologies (ICT) embedded in GIS can both aid the DRR efforts as well as impact the community in unintended ways. ICTs may be common in communities engaged in DRR efforts so the introduction of PPGIS may have minimal impact. What are the societal ramifications, however, of PPGIS methods in DRR efforts when ICTs are a relatively new aspect of a given community?  What are the communication methods pertinent to PPGIS in the DRR context?  How does the ICT literature address PPGIS methods?  The paper addresses these and other influences of ICT on societies prone to natural hazards.


PPGIS, natural hazards, disaster risk reduction, information organization

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