Web-Based Geographic Information Systems: Public Participation in Virtual Decision Making Environments

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Virginia Tech

Geographic information technologies on the Internet possess the potential to provide tremendous support to citizens by empowering them with information. A Virtual Decision-Making Environment (VDME) is created when GIS on the Internet, or in other words, Web-based GIS, are integrated with different technologies such as multimedia, virtual reality, and visualization, to disseminate information for better public participation. Such an environment can make complex information more easily understandable to people who are not sophisticated in technology. VDME can mold today's society by providing efficient public access, and may support "empowerment" of the citizens' capacity to work with data to participate in the discussion of community development initiatives.

The objective of this paper is to discuss the role of web-based GIS as spatial decision support systems to aid public participatory community planning, and build on the current research to develop ideas for an effective Virtual Decision-Making Environment. The paper also explores the potential and constraints of web-based tools for public participation. The paper achieves its objective by exploring different approaches to community based decision support systems that have emerged in the electronic agora to improve the social and economic status of the community.

Internet, Public Participation, Geographic Information Systems (GIS)