The Geo-Citizen participation framework: 15 years research, 3 years implementation – now serving societies worldwide
Thomas Blaschke1, Karl Atzmanstorfer1,2, Anton Eitzinger3, Richard Resl1,2
1 University of Salzburg (Austria)
2 Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador)
3 CIAT – International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Cali, Columbia)
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have arrived at planners’ desktops and their products reach mobile devices such as smartphones. Still, fully interactive bi-directional urban governance solutions which build on maps and the spatial view are rare. In this paper we focus on the utilization of GIS-based methodologies in participatory planning. The authors critically highlight some developments in the GIS domain which are summarized under the term ‘Public Participation GIS’ (PPGIS) since the mid 1990s. In 2005 however, the launch of Google Earth changed the situation significantly: such mapping platforms—including Microsoft Bing and others—brought mapping functionality to the users and soon after, the term “volunteered geographic information” was created. It refers to the two-way communication possibilities using geospatial tools and to the participation of citizens in planning initiatives.
After many years of academic research operational solutions were developed through a joint undertaking by research groups in Austria, Ecuador and Colombia. Several successful projects in South America utilized and developed further the GeoCitizen platform by taking advantage of the high penetration rate of smartphones and tablets. Citizens can make use of their mobile devices to access the platform, share their geographic location and to get in touch with other users in their everyday life. The GeoCitizen geospatial web-platform brings together citizens allowing them to collaboratively identify, report, discuss, solve and monitor problems in their living environment using one single web-platform that combines geo-web technologies and social media tools. Currently, the platform is implemented and tested in case studies with different problem focuses. Well documented studies in Quito, Ecuador and Cali, Columbia tackle problems of rapidly growing suburban areas and those of mixed neighbourhoods. It could be demonstrated that the platform helps citizens who are facing a lack of support by public administration to start their own participatory spatial planning initiatives. Drawing from this successful studies the platform has been re-programmed in an open source software environment and is currently also being commercialized in Europe through a spin-off of the University of Salzburg (Spatial Services GmbH) in order to provide citizens with a collaborative instrument for efficient adaptation strategies.