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Strengthening capacities for the use of GIS in disaster risk reduction

Rürup, Anna Charlin LU (2017) VBRM15 20171
Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety
Abstract
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a powerful tool for supporting disaster risk reduction (DRR). International agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction call on high-income countries and other partners to support lower-income countries in strengthening their DRR capacities. This thesis explores the experiences of stakeholders in strengthening GIS capacities for DRR in lower and middle-income countries. It presents the theoretical concepts of DRR and capacity development as well as the applications of GIS in DRR. Based on semi-structured interviews with practitioners from different regions and a literature review, this thesis analyses practices and challenge encountered in strengthening GIS capacities for DRR... (More)
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a powerful tool for supporting disaster risk reduction (DRR). International agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction call on high-income countries and other partners to support lower-income countries in strengthening their DRR capacities. This thesis explores the experiences of stakeholders in strengthening GIS capacities for DRR in lower and middle-income countries. It presents the theoretical concepts of DRR and capacity development as well as the applications of GIS in DRR. Based on semi-structured interviews with practitioners from different regions and a literature review, this thesis analyses practices and challenge encountered in strengthening GIS capacities for DRR as well as possibilities for overcoming these challenges. The findings show that there is a broad range of initiatives for strengthening GIS capacities. Whilst some of the challenges such as culture, politics and power relations are specific to the context, this study finds that stakeholders in different context often experience similar challenges such as lack of data, costs of GIS and lack of decision-maker support for GIS. Sustaining the capacities in the long-term was identified as a major challenge. To overcome these challenges and make GIS capacity development sustainable this thesis recommends tailoring the GIS solutions to the specific situation, developing low-cost solutions, integrating GIS into the organisational structure and demonstrating the benefits of GIS for DRR to decision-makers. This requires a long-term approach and strong stakeholder involvement in the capacity development process. (Less)
Popular Abstract
A map is worth a thousand word. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) - systems comprised of software, hardware and data can be used to capture, store, manipulate and analyse all kinds of different geographically referenced data and then visualise this data on a map. This can be used in disaster risk reduction– take for example a city with a river that regularly floods. In GIS, a map of the flood prone areas can be combined with a map of the city’s infrastructure so we can see where there is a risk of flooding. If we add population data to the system, we can also find out how many people will be affected, if we add the road network we can simulate evacuation routes and so on. In other words, GIS can be a very useful tool in disaster risk... (More)
A map is worth a thousand word. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) - systems comprised of software, hardware and data can be used to capture, store, manipulate and analyse all kinds of different geographically referenced data and then visualise this data on a map. This can be used in disaster risk reduction– take for example a city with a river that regularly floods. In GIS, a map of the flood prone areas can be combined with a map of the city’s infrastructure so we can see where there is a risk of flooding. If we add population data to the system, we can also find out how many people will be affected, if we add the road network we can simulate evacuation routes and so on. In other words, GIS can be a very useful tool in disaster risk reduction. Most of the disaster losses occurs in lower income countries. GIS could help reduce risk in these countries, but at the same time, authorities in these countries often do not have the knowledge, resources or structures to use GIS for disaster risk reduction. Therefore, there is a need to strengthen these capacities, this is often done with the support of external partners, whether it is a national authority bringing GIS to the local level or an international agency trying to support a national disaster management authority. This research aims to identify challenges and success factors for such capacity development interventions.
Therefore, 15 different practitioners from a wide range of regions were interviewed and the literature on GIS capacity development was studied. The results of this research indicate that there are several challenges to strengthening GIS capacity. First of all, GIS can be costly, particularly hiring qualified staff, buying proprietary software and collecting data. Secondly, there are challenges specific to the context: sometimes people may be unfamiliar with technology, there might be language barriers or security concerns over data sharing. However, the biggest challenge was sustaining the GIS capacities in the long-term. Data needs to be updated to be useful and GIS needs to be used for decision-making to have any effect. The study found two main factors leading to this, first the lack of support from the decision-making or management level, second the turnover of staff. The former may be either due to a lack of awareness of the benefits of GIS or be due to the fact that there are competing priorities for a limited budget. The latter is a frequent issue and sometimes related to the capacity development intervention, as the new GIS skills allow staff to find better employment elsewhere.
This research thus identifies several considerations for strengthening GIS capacities – 1) GIS needs to be adapted to the specific context that means the needs of the organisation, the resources available to maintain it as well the wider cultural and political context; 2) to be maintained and used in the long-term GIS needs to be integrated in the organisation’s work practices; 3) lower the cost of GIS through using open source software, freely available data and creating synergies with existing institutions and 4) availability of quality data should be improved, mostly through policies and legislation for data collection, standardisation and sharing.
These lead to two overarching considerations that are particularly relevant to those implementing and funding GIS capacity development interventions. First, changes such as changing an organisation’s practices or national legislation take a long time, therefore strengthening GIS capacities needs to be part of a long-term partnership with regular follow-ups. Second, strengthening GIS capacities is not simply the provision of a technical solution, it requires the ownership of those using GIS in order for them to be willing to maintain and use it. Therefore, the partner should be involved throughout the entire process and particular attention should be paid to convincing management of the benefits of GIS. (Less)
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author
Rürup, Anna Charlin LU
supervisor
organization
course
VBRM15 20171
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Geographic Information Systems, GIS, capacity development, disaster risk reduction, capacity building
language
English
id
8927256
date added to LUP
2017-10-12 13:26:57
date last changed
2017-10-12 13:26:57
@misc{8927256,
  abstract     = {Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a powerful tool for supporting disaster risk reduction (DRR). International agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction call on high-income countries and other partners to support lower-income countries in strengthening their DRR capacities. This thesis explores the experiences of stakeholders in strengthening GIS capacities for DRR in lower and middle-income countries. It presents the theoretical concepts of DRR and capacity development as well as the applications of GIS in DRR. Based on semi-structured interviews with practitioners from different regions and a literature review, this thesis analyses practices and challenge encountered in strengthening GIS capacities for DRR as well as possibilities for overcoming these challenges. The findings show that there is a broad range of initiatives for strengthening GIS capacities. Whilst some of the challenges such as culture, politics and power relations are specific to the context, this study finds that stakeholders in different context often experience similar challenges such as lack of data, costs of GIS and lack of decision-maker support for GIS. Sustaining the capacities in the long-term was identified as a major challenge. To overcome these challenges and make GIS capacity development sustainable this thesis recommends tailoring the GIS solutions to the specific situation, developing low-cost solutions, integrating GIS into the organisational structure and demonstrating the benefits of GIS for DRR to decision-makers. This requires a long-term approach and strong stakeholder involvement in the capacity development process.},
  author       = {Rürup, Anna Charlin},
  keyword      = {Geographic Information Systems,GIS,capacity development,disaster risk reduction,capacity building},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Strengthening capacities for the use of GIS in disaster risk reduction},
  year         = {2017},
}