GIS for involvement and decision-making

30 French experiences

30 June 2001L'Institut Paris Region, CNIG, ISTED

The Geographic Information System (GIS) has become today’s ideal decision aid instrument for territories as different as a city, a conurbation, a region and sometimes even an entire country.

Not only information and management…

A GIS is basically the necessary combination of three elements: software, a database and a system. The GIS can almost instantaneously generate maps on which all possible phenomena or themes can be localized, crossed and quantified, providing the data are available. A second important factor is that the GIS requires great care to be taken collectively in gathering, processing and using the information. By enabling information from any source and any structure to be collected, it brings very different organizations, whose habits and motivations may not have been so inclined, to work together for their mutual benefit. Thirdly, it is a tool in support of technician’s proposals to their political authorities, with a view to optimizing their decision-making processes.

… but also involvement and decentralization

The GIS can develop into a decentralizing instrument, by giving even the smallest local authorities more autonomy in their knowledge, decision-making and management, with relation to State administrations. GIS systems are set to play a leading role in such essential issues as:

  • The development of cadastral registers and land security
  • Risk prevention, pollution control, management of basic resources such as water, a balanced approach to sustainable urban development,
  • Promoting decentralization and the autonomy of local authority, knowledge and decision-making, promoting public information and participation, developing local partnerships
  • And lastly, the concept of an objectively transferable, adaptable tool in a context of renewed international urban cooperation.

Highly diversified French knowhow

GIS systems have been used in many applications for the past ten years in France.The use of the GIS tool as a management instrument is important:

  • Day-to-day management of land use rights (City of Paris repository, processing applications for urban planning certificates and building permits in Nice, tool shared between managers and local authorities at Marseille Metropole), and the addressing method in the developing cities,
  • Work management and programming: how to go from technical analysis (roads in Saint Nazaire and Rennes, the sewage system in the "Grand Lyon") to integrated work management (Saint Quentin en Yvelines)
  • Land use management that goes beyond urban areas such as a département (county) or region: decentralization of the tool towards small communes (in Vendée or Morbihan), use as a tool for monitoring and then assessing multi-year contractual policies such as the Programme Contract (Paris Ile-de-France region, Nord Pas-de-Calais, Mantois), or a tool designed to better meet the demand for information from contractor companies in their search for optimized siting of their facilities.

A second important part of this casebook uses recent experiences of participatory democracy to show how a GIS can be extended to the public via communication/information networks of the Intranet, Extranet type and on the Internet. We have also focused on two concrete aspects of transport and environment issues.

These are all instances of the increasingly refined scope of vision of geographic information systems. By helping us to see better, maybe they will enable us to understand our cities and urban areas better.

This study is linked to the following themes :
Governance | Urban planning