Application of Participatory GIS for Rural Community
Development and Local Level Spatial Planning System in Sri
POSTGRADUATE INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF PERADENIYA
Published: October 2008
Present age of human history is known as the information society, or the age of knowledge. The
Socio-Economic impact acquired in this manner is huge since sustainable development is
unthinkable without knowledge based society. Sustainable development can be defined as constant
improvement in the quality of life for the current generation, or better quality of life for the
subsequent generation; all form the same sources of Earth.
Participation in community development is significant factor which can help to achieve the
development goal. How does the village community having identified their community needs and
plan their development themselves? That should reflect through their development plan.
What are the benefits of participation in community development?
• Community interest in the development process.
• Community interest in the localities in which such a project is planned.
• Empower the Communities in the decision making process.
• Communities able to fully contribute their own local knowledge to the repository of expert
environmental and social data.
• Facilitation, investigation, analysis, presentation and learning by local people and sharing of
information and ideas.
• Expectation of Village development by plans formulated outside the villages at urban
centres with less knowledge on the village realities and imposed upon village communities
from the top.
Community development can be defined broadly as strategies to build local capacity and improve
the quality of life in geographic communities; community informatics is promising approach for
taking advantage of information and communication technology to further the goal of community
development. It is Important. However that proponent of this approach recognizes that it is based
on assumption that technology in itself can be lead to positive social development.
Participatory GIS can be considered as a rudimentary Community-based Geographic Information
gathering; the use of different coding methods allows for the composition and storage of thematic
information layers; this in turn facilitates community-based analysis of spatially-defined information
and the display of results. The tool processes existing data and its output(for instance the change in
policy by decision makers in favour of society welfare), providing the foundation upon which public
participation GIS can release in its full potential, by displaying multiple realities and conflicting
interest through the eye of all concerned stakeholders. Public Participatory Geographical
Information System(PPGIS) is the field of this research proposal that focus on the use of GIS by
general public and aims at involving citizens in a decision making process. This can be used as a
platform for communication and dissermination of information which can link community
participation and Gegraphical information in diversity of social and environmental context.
The main purpose of participatory GIS techniques is to enable development practitioners,
government officials, and local level people to work together to plan appropriate programs. This
approach draws heavily on concepts developed under the broad development of GIS in terms of
data access, data representation, and structural knowledge distortion and community
empowerment as being legitimate and significant issues in the application of community
GIS AND PARTICIPATORY GIS
What is GIS?
Geographical Information System (GIS) is a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing
spatially reference data. GIS can facilitate the understanding of spatial aspects of social and
economic development by:
• Relating socio-economic variables to natural resources and the physical world;
• Providing a tool for targeting interventions and monitoring impacts at various
scales over wide areas.
• Put planning and research technology into the public domain to enrich – and
enhance access to – information, to promote discussion and improve
understanding of conflicting view points.
As Personal Computers (PC) , Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) become
more sophisticated. GIS is becoming a more accessible tool for storing and analyzing
information, mapping, visualizing and modeling development scenarios; for monitoring
progress and change. GIS can be applied at various scales and levels of complexity, and
dedicated systems for application in a variety of specialized context; could become as
standard on the average computer as spreadsheets, word processors and databases.
What is participatory GIS?
Participatory GIS is the integration of local knowledge and stakeholders’ perspectives in the
GIS. Stakeholders should also have access to GIS databases, products and be able to apply
GIS as well as GIS products to development planning, resource management and promotion.
A variety of terms and acronyms are used by practitioners, such as participatory GIS (P-GIS),
which is used throughout this Guide, GIS with participation (GIS-P) and community or
stakeholder integrated GIS; but essentially these all refer to the same set of concepts and
GIS in Rural Development
The principle application of GIS in rural development are land and resource mapping,
integration of local and scientific spatial knowledge, community-based natural resource
management (CBNRM), area planning, environmental management, management of pests
and natural hazards. The applications may be more, or less, participatory according to the
data collection and analysis techniques and the degree of stakeholder consultation,
feedback and the level at which any management decisions are taken.
Objectives of the Study
• Pursuing social goals through participatory Geographical Information System
• Employing a Participatory Approach in applying Geo-Information to Spatial Planning
• Development of regional Geographical Information Infrastructure for the State,
INGO, NGO, or any other development practitioners.
Significance of Study
• Public participatory GIS is a field of research that has not been fully focused in Sri
• GIS is a new technology, which can be adopted as a tool for analyzing and integrating
the spatial and non spatial data in the community development projects. Public
Participatory GIS can be integrated the local knowledge and Modern technology.
This study derived from combining participation and GIS results and its powerful
communication medium which bridge the gap between indigenous technical
knowledge and scientific knowledge and there by increase the capacity of local
stakeholders and policy makers to interact, locally, with external agencies and with
central government of Sri Lanka.
• Lack of spatial information in rural and regional level is one of the main problems for
development practitioners and Government officials and local level planners. This
project focus and develop longstanding development plan for everyone in the
• Government authorities can use the spatial distribution of resources and its usage
pattern as acquired by the participatory GIS Process for planning the tribal policy and
deciding the place for the setting outsiders.
• This approach draws heavily on concepts developed under the broad umbrella of GIS
Society and critical GIS.
Source of Data
• Primary Data collection
PRA (Participatory Rural Approach)
PRA is the name for an increasing number of participatory approaches and
techniques which emphasize local knowledge and enable local people to
make their own appraisal, analysis and plans. Participatory tools which
include group discussion, semi-structured interviews and transect walk to
I. Transect Mapping (Transect walk)
These Tools are used to gain information on different natural resource zones
and forms of land use around a community. Transect mapping is a tool used to
describe the location and distribution of resources, the landscape and main land
uses. In addition it allows participants to identify constraints and opportunities with
specific reference to locations or particular types of environment encounter along
the route of transect.
Transect walks are systematic walks with key informants through the area of
interest, observing, asking, listening, looking and identifying zones. By walking
through a field, spatial data such as land use, settlement pattern and people’s
perception of these can be investigated and discussed in detail. This helps to
generate an overview of a given area and at the same time draws attention to
unusual characteristics. Used in connection with semi-structured interviews this tool
can be particularly helpful in understanding intersection between the physical
environmental human activities. The way point can be marked using GPS. The
different activities as observed on the ground can be recorded.
II. Participatory Sketch Mapping
This is informal method for collecting and plotting information on the occurrences,
distribution, access and use of resources within the economic and cultural domain
of a specific community. It is a simple tool, easily adopted and replicated at
The farmers draw “maps” showing environmental variability, seasonal movement,
traditional territories, etc. These can be drawn on the Ground with a stick,
particularly if farmers are unfamiliar with paper and pens. They can also be drawn
directly on large sheets of paper(in which case it can be useful to use different color
marker pens), Early enthusiastic of the method stressed the importance of farmers
physically drawing maps themselves with local material; but in many cases good
results can be obtained when farmers simply advise and investigate. In many cases
the opportunity to use the map as a springboard for semi-structured interviews may
be just as available, or more valuable, than the map itself.
This technique prove very useful with livestock procedures, especially with semiextensive
and extensive systems. The intensive system maps can also be used to
explore folder resources, marketing, input supply and service provision linkages.
III. Social mapping
Generates spatially referenced information demography, health, economic
activities, religion, ethno-linguistics characteristics, infrastructure and other socioeconomic
IV. Information Mapping
Closely related to social mapping and to participatory sketch mapping, an
information map shows the various sources and channels of Communication that
people use. With a group of small stock keepers, you can create a map which shows
where they get information from and who they go for advice. We can also show
how easy or difficult it is to access them by the distance between each source and
V. Wealth ranking and Poverty Mapping
Ranking of household into different classes defined by locally accepted indices of
wealth or well being, or their opposites.
VI. Village Mapping
Shape of village boundary, distribution of road network, housing units, water
streams, other prominent features are drawn by the community on the ground.
VII. Resource mapping
Identification of existing resources and mapping. This can be used as a village plan
and the livelihood activities.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
• GPS can apply from PRA stage to the data validation and accuracy checking.
• Locating service centers, housing units, digitizing road network, and getting
well precision point for geocoding satellite images.
• Wealth ranking and poverty mapping cannot be done without using baseline
data. Data should be collected using Survey questionnaire.
• Secondary Data collection
• Data Processing
The range of different mapbased products and techniques now available for use in
participatory techniques has inevitably converged with the use of computer based
Geographical Information System (GIS) unlike sketch maps, and sophisticated
Participatory GIS approach based on using Geo-Spatial or map based information
management tools ranging from sketch maps, Arial Photographs, Satellite Imagery,
and Global Positioning System (GPS), and Geographical Information System (GIS) to
combine peoples’ spatial knowledge in the form of two or three dimensional maps.
Bottom-up Planning Process
This process can be used from the village and micro level planning system to the regional and national level.
Data Analysis/Data Interpretation
Micro Level Plan
"Information is mutch an emergency need, as other elements such as water, food and
shelter". This is important, because it meanse that GIS can provide more problem - solving
capabilities than using simple mapping programs or adding data to an online mapping tool.
Planners are able to decide where they are going to implement their project. That would be targeted to;
• Capacity Building
• Livelihood Improvement
• Infrastructure Development in the Village.
Applicable GIS Techniques are,
• Statistical Analysis
• Spatial Analysis
• Network Analysis
• Locational Analysis
• 3D Analysis
• Overlay Operations
Regional Level Plan
Local level administrative system can be modernized and accelerated through the GIS
technology. From the Village level System can be dissolve in to Pradesiya Sabha Level. PS
Ministers can develop their Village Inter Connectivity Plan using participatory GIS
• Information Presentation
• Village level information could be user friendly for the community in the
village. They can print their Village map as planning and monitoring tool.
• Regional Level Computer based Information System should be established in
the local administrative office with GIS technology. They can use this system
for project planning and monitoring.
Limitations Risks associated with this study
Since GIS has generally been an expertdriven technology, which is controlled centrally by state
agencies, research institutions and private corporations. A number of risks have been associated
with its deployment in the service of human centred development. These include;
• Only expert knowledge or data that are readily available in digital form – as opposed to local
knowledge – will be incorporated in GIS.
• Planning decisions will be made by experts and technocrats with access to GIS technology
but without reference to those directly affected.
• Personal and community security may be violated if information supplied by local people is
used by outsiders and developers without their knowledge, consent or understanding.
• GIS is relatively costly and, unless safeguards are built in to ensure effective use, the costs
are unlikely to be matched by real social benefits.
These risks are real, but they can be addressed by deploying GIS in institutional and
Policy contexts in which there is a real commitment to incorporating the needs and
perspectives of local people in development research and in planning and resource
Time Frame (Year 2008)
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GIS -Geographical Information System
PGIS - Participatory Geographical Information System
RGII - Regional Geographical Information Infrastructure
VDP -Village Development Plan
EIA -Environmental Impact Assessment
CDD -Community Driven Development
MIS -Management Information System
GPS -Global Positioning System
RS -Remote Sensing
PRA -Participatory Rural Appraisal
DSD - Divisional Secretariat Division
PS -Pradesiya Sabha
DBMS -Database Management System
INGO -International Non-Government Organization
NGO - Non-Government Organization