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Interview with Dr. Mike McCall on the aspect of Training in Participatory GIS practice

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Hello, I'm Mike McCall. I work for ITC (International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation) in the Netherlands, ... ... which is an international training institute. We are working with all kinds of spatial information, geo-information. We work with geo-information associated with rural development ... ... and natural resource management in developing countries. All the people we work with, are students coming from the developing countries, ... ... in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We have been working with geo-information for a long time, ... ... but mostly from a remote [outsiders'] perspective. We are using satellite imagery, we are using air photography, ... ... and we are using very formal methods of mapping and geo-information systems, GIS. Now we are working, also, at a local level we are working with communities, ... ... we are working participation with communities, and other people are involved in the map making ... ... and in the interpretation of the geo-information. You are now working with local communities. In your view what is the demand, in terms of capacity building, ... ... in the projects dealing with PGIS (Participatory GIS)? Interesting question ... because it is not easy to determine really what the demand is. We cannot go village to village, asking the people, "Who would like to do this?" What we are receiving and what we are very sure of is ... ... there is a lot of demand from intermediary organizations. They can be community, or multiplicities of communities, community groupings, ... ... small NGOs, as well as the more national and international NGOs ... ... and also academic institutions which are working in this area, ... ... or concerned people who are working in that area. There is a lot of demand because there is a lot of different reasons why PGIS ... ... can be used by the communities. Some of it is to do with making claims, looking for land rights and resource rights, ... ... but there is also a broader context than that, which is natural source management of those areas. People trying to manage and look after their own resources. Sometimes the need is for mapping to do with conflict between one community and another, ... ... or between the community and higher level institutions like the government or private sector ... ... where big forest companies are coming in or big ranching companies are coming in. At a deeper level, a lot of communities are seeing the possibilities; ... ... where the mapping means representing themselves. Representing their history and their culture. You see this particularly with indigenous peoples, but not only with them ... ... but also with other urban neighbourhoods, as well as rural ones. Arising from this conference, there seems to be a lot of potential ... ... in terms of the demand being very high. How are you likely to meet that demand at ITC? We would be happy to meet a lot more of the demand, but we have some limitation in our capacity. For example, here in Kenya we have just run a two-week programme together with a Kenyan partner ... ... called ERMIS and that is the direction to go for my institute, ITC: ... ... working with key partners in various countries. We are working on similar work ... ... in West Africa, in Mexico, in India, in Nepal, in Tanzania and Southern Africa, ... ... where there are NGOs or consultancy companies or people ... ... who have similar expertise and experience, ... ... and the way forward is more and more of these partnerships. I should like to say the reason why the training can go further is because ... ... the materials available are developing quite fast, ... ... just at the level of training materials, booklets, handbooks and so on, ... ... more of them are coming out and the level of the technology which is needed. PGIS uses hardware uses software, and that is becoming more user friendly ... ... more available, more mobile, more reliable, and that means not only, ... ... the use by the communities continues with it, but actually it makes it easier for training as well. During this conference, what have you picked up that you can see is of value particularly ... ... to some of the people that you have trained, and even the potential organizations that are likely ... ... to benefit from PGIS, and who are only gaining that awareness through this conference? I think a particular benefit which has come out of this particular conference, ... ... is cross-fertilization between different cultures. People have been coming from many communities and many areas around the world, ... ... especially from South-east Asia, Africa and from North America. There is an amazing cross-fertilization between these groups because ... ... they have their own special knowledge and special experience. In community management of resources, in making land claims, in handling conflicts ... ... between communities, this cross-fertilization is important for those people, ... ... but we feel it is also very important for the training which we are doing, ... ... all the training which should be done. The training is not just in the technical aspects of how to use machinery, ... ... but in the application of it, the difficulties with it, the problems with it, ... ... following it through because PGIS, I must emphasize, ... ... PGIS is part of participatory development of people. That is mainly necessary for the workshop, but as far as PGIS is concerned, ... ... most of the time when you come from a conflict there are very high expectations, ... ... it is also important to anticipate some problems, ... I think. Yes, there are problems with it. There are problems with all participatory techniques. ... ... The first controversy I would always ask is ... ... "Who is participating?". It is absolutely impossible for everybody to participate. Someone participating is representing other people and that can never be 100% perfect. The second thing is, because PGIS is bringing out new information, ... ... which was not in the public domain before, ... it was private or community. There is benefits to that because it is generating new knowledge, ... ... which people did not even know they had, and there are potential drawbacks ... ... so we cannot deny there are some problems with it. One, is the information that is coming out. It is a wonderful thing to share information, ... ... to make information more public, but there is some information which people, ... ... or communities or individuals within them, are reluctant and not so keen to have out. It can be information about resources, which they are afraid that other ... ... outside powerful groups will try to exploit, to make use of. There is information about areas or places, which are very important to them culturally ... ... maybe sacred areas or historical cultural areas. Some of that information they do not want the general public to know. Maybe individuals outside ..., but not to be generally available. So we have to also make use of some protocols or methods by which ... ... some information is allowed out, and others not. Of course the key to that, is that the control of what comes in and what goes out ... ... remains with the community or the best possible representatives of the community. Educational Video produced in the framework of the project "Support the spread ... ... of good practice in generating, managing, analysing and communicating spatial information"

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 3 seconds
Year: 2009
Country: Netherlands
Language: English
Producer: CTA
Director: Giacomo Rambaldi
Views: 273
Posted by: giacomo on Nov 11, 2009

Mike McCall argues that there is no doubting demand for capacity-building in PGIS. Communities value it for claiming lands, managing resources, handling conflicts, recording their cultural landscapes. Training institutions understand this demand through intermediaries. PGIS is at a strong juncture because hardware and software are getting increasingly accessible and user-friendly. Training, however, is not just techniques, but exchanging ideas amongst users and trainers on effective, acceptable applications. Challenges facing PGIS are not unique: Who in the community participates? Who chooses them? New information is generated and maybe disseminated into public domain, but some are reluctant to share it for good reasons. Thus, the heart of the PGIS ethic is who is in controls, who shares?

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