See GISDECO 2002

Aim and Themes

6th Seminar on GIS and Developing Countries

May 15-18, 2002

International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences

ITC, The Netherlands


The forces of globalisation, urbanisation, population growth, migration and resource depletion are prominent on national and international agendas. Arising from the various political fora are campaigns for improved systems of governance that will enable societies to develop in more sustainable and equitable manner. However, as  the concept of Governance is dependant upon the historical, cultural and political circumstances of a given society, there is no system of governance that can be universally applied.

The scope of governance cannot be reduced to dealing with the efficiency of government services, administration and delivery. Rather, it entails a set of measures of the relationships between the public (civil society), the government or public sector and, to a lesser though perhaps increasingly important extent, those organisations that comprise the private sector. Governance is typically defined through 5 main measures or constructs:

Legitimacy – e.g. adherence to democratic principles and procedures,

representativeness of diverse interests, performance monitoring

Respect for – e.g. basic human rights, citizen’s rights and civil liberties, laws and

property rights, group or regional rights

Accountability – e.g. transparency, degree of devolution or decentralisation,

accountability mechanisms

Competence – e.g. efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery and policy making, administrative competence

Equity – e.g. measures and indicators of access to resources and services by various (disadvantaged) groups in society, degree of open access to markets.


Spatial and spatial information connotations are relevant in several of these dimensions of governance, and the development and use of Geographic Information Technology (GIT) can be expected to have an impact on governance relationships.

The rapid development and diffusion of GIT provides tools support the planning and management of development processes, in even the poorest countries. The potential benefits of GIT for improving the quantity and quality of spatial information and enhancing analytical capabilities should lead to a better understanding of development problems and their possible solutions but could also change the balance of power in governance relationships.

The Sixth GISDECO Seminar focuses on contribution that GIT makes in efforts to improve Governance. The main purpose of the seminar is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and practical experience between experts and users of GIT applied to governance issues.  The seminar will explore how various stakeholder groups are using GIT and how this is explicitly or implicitly affecting Governance systems in developing countries.  Toward this objective, we call for papers and posters on the following themes that relate to the GIS supported activities of main stakeholder groups; Public Sector, Private Sector and  Civil Society. The changes, which many countries are now  making to improve their governance systems and structures, affect the  populations of both urban  and rural  areas. It is intended  to also address  issues related to applications in urban and rural settings.


Governance and the public sector’s use of GIS

The public sector has a crucial role in governance processes. It can ensure that the main frameworks and preconditions for good governance are achieved. In many countries, it plays a vital role in the capture, provision and use of geographic information for all stages of development related planning processes. Specific activities that are being undertaken by the public sector to improve the availability and public access to geographic information in relation to urban and rural planning problems or procedures will be the subject of this theme. Does the use of GIS support more open, collaborative planning processes?


Governance and the private sector’s use of GIS

In governance terms, the significance of the private sector is vital. A large part of the investments made in rural and urban development are driven by market forces. Globally, GIT is a growth industry. The private sector is expanding its activities in a rapidly expanding GIT market. For example, privatisation is affecting the capture and distribution of what was formerly public domain spatial data and more accessible public data enables industry to analyse the impact of their development projects.  Papers in this session will examine how the private sector’s role in the GIT industry is changing, how these changes affect governance relationships, and discuss whether private sector interests can bring about more complete and equitable access to spatial information than was hitherto possible.


Governance and civil society’s use of GIS

The recognition of the importance of civil society in development processes is a marked feature of contemporary views of planning and development. NGOs, CBOs and other groups in civil society are adopting GIT as means of empowerment in gaining recognition for their problems and needs. Various examples exist of groups in civil society adopting GIT to achieve their aims in planning and development. The indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Canada and Australia for example, are using GIS tools to document their local knowledge and establish their rights to land and other resources. NGO-CBO networks use GIS in assisting slum dwellers to create socio-economic and physical profiles of slum areas, sometimes challenging the official view, but also in partnership with the public and private sectors. Innovative examples of civil society adopting GIS will be presented, drawing lessons from their achievements and failures.