Importance of GIS in Social Program Planning

Stephen Covey once wrote, ‘the way we see the problem is the problem.”

Indeed the way we see the problem is actually our biggest problem.

Many of our government programs and projects are not based on the needs of the community. For this reason many  development programs and failed.

Implementer’s have a different way of doing things and implementing a program because often times these implementer’s do not see what is really going on in the community.

In this essence, the community is the best source of information as to what the programs might be implemented.  According to one interview conducted by a team of experts:

“People are able to look at the information based on where they live or areas they are familiar with and obtain a better understanding.”

To better understand the world and how it operates, a visual representation of phenomena could be created.

A spatial correlation between different phenomena: in what way are occurrences/events occurring in the same location” is needed to for effective implementation.

In order to make effective policy and strategic intervention, a general knowledge of the ways human societies operate must be combined with data on local conditions.

Hence, geodemographic characterization (Kemp, 2003) or social mapping through GIS spatial analysis will help implementers, stakeholders and policy makers to get a visual view of the important phenomena occurring in an area.

As with other decision support system (DSS), GIS is very effective at identifying strategic intervention points and a good entry point to unite diverse coalitions and stakeholders.

To capture these strategic points, a set of variables is needed to capture the salient features of a community which could be done through household community survey and participatory mapping.

Such information will serve as a database of the community’s socio-economic profile. The database will be used in data modeling to provide information in the form of raster and vector representation.

The latter being strongly favored in applications of GIS to social phenomena will be used in spatial analysis- a set of techniques and tools designed to analyze data in spatial context (Goodchild).

This will then provide a spatial map which serves the following functions, a) Identifying targeted areas of discrimination or areas for intervention; b) and showing universal problems of concern across communities.

Maps generated not just provide new insights possible for intervention, but it perfectly captures the salient features of the community where significant policy can be drawn out.

Will this be sufficient to implement a program?

It depends who is working with the database and analyzing the generated map. Also, it needs a “triangulation” (I call it that way), using PRA tools.

But by looking at the map, you can draw some conclusions on what intervention you may implement in your community.